Lord Risby: My Lords, apparently, the Olympic Games organisers some 2,531 years ago introduced the idea of coins for those games to appease those who were not able to get seats to watch them. I do not know if there is any particular parallel to be drawn from our current situation, but that is not the essence of what this Bill is all about.
I am grateful for the opportunity to present the Bill to the House this morning. Initially, therefore, I will deal with its technical aspects. This two-clause Bill makes a minor technical amendment to the Coinage Act 1971, which governs the striking of coins by the Royal Mint and contains various standards in respect of a coin's weight, fineness, composition and dimensions with which coins struck by the Royal Mint must comply. The Act also makes provision for permitted variations from those standards. Section 1(6) of the Coinage Act 1971 requires that the variation from the standard weight of any coin be measured as the average of a sample of not more than 1 kilogram of that coin. This is perfectly fit for the purpose for which it was originally conceived. The current weights of UK circulating coins range from the 5-pence piece at 3.25 grams to the £2 coin at 12 grams. A sample of a kilogram is therefore a perfectly reasonable measure of the tolerated variation from the standard weight.
However, circulating coins is just one part of the Royal Mint's business. As with all good businesses, it is constantly seeking to evolve, expand and explore new technologies and commercial opportunities. Such a commercial opportunity, of course, is presenting itself in that London will next year be hosting the Olympic and Paralympic Games. To commemorate this historic occasion the Royal Mint has designed an Olympic coin programme that is likely to be one of the largest ever in the history of the Olympics. It is worth visiting the Royal Mint's website. Its 29 coins have been struck for each of the 29 participating sports. We should congratulate the Royal Mint on the quality of its designs.
As part of that programme, the Royal Mint is keen to strike kilogram coins. As I set out earlier, the current wording of the coinage act would effectively prohibit this. It is not possible to measure the variation from the standard weight in the case of the proposed Olympics coins because the weight of each coin is likely to be equal to or greater than the 1 kilogram aggregate limit in Section 1(6) of the Act. Clause 1 of the Bill therefore amends the Coinage Act so that the variation from the standard weight of any coin can be specified by royal proclamation as provided for in Section 3 of the Coinage Act 1971. That provides flexibility.
I am sure that your Lordships will appreciate that this removes a technical and legislative obstacle to the proposed Olympic coins and will allow the Royal Mint to develop and continue to develop new and innovative designs and exciting opportunities to continue to push coinage boundaries. We hope that our 2012 Olympics will be the best Olympic coin programme to date-and, of course, it will be self-funding.
The striking of kilogram coins has recently become part of the Olympic Games tradition. Most other host nations in recent years, such as Australia, Canada and China, have issued coins of this type and they have been extremely popular. Indeed, in the past 10 years over 40,000 Olympic kilogram coins have been issued around the world. The Bill will allow the Royal Mint to continue this tradition in commemoration of the London 2012 Olympic and Paralympic Games-and, indeed, any future important cultural or national events, subject to the approval of Her Majesty the Queen, the Chancellor of the Exchequer and the Royal Mint Advisory Committee.
Because of their large size, the kilogram coins will be an exciting, artistic and eye-catching part of the Olympic Games. The intention is for them to be significant works of numismatic art. The Royal Mint would approach high-profile artists to prepare these designs, and that is under way. Currently, the plan is to produce 60 gold coins and 14,000 silver coins, with a nominal value of £1,000 and £500 respectively. Judging from the reception that similar coins have had around the world, and after consulting with representatives of the coin trade and collectors, the Royal Mint is confident that United Kingdom kilogram coins will be extremely well received. These coins are being produced to the highest standards of socially responsible business, and the accreditation has been given.
The Royal Mint proposes to make its kilogram coins from 22-carat gold and fine silver. These coins will be the largest ever UK coins, with a diameter of 10 centimetres. The Olympic programme would generate royalties for both London 2012 and the Exchequer, as the Royal Mint corporate entity is 100 per cent owned by Her Majesty's Treasury. Under the UK coin contract, the Royal Mint pays a royalty to Her Majesty's Treasury for commemorative coins. It is estimated that the Olympic coin programme, including the kilogram coins, would generate an estimated royalty payment of approximately £2 million. At the current prices, 1 kilogram of gold costs approximately £32,000 and 1 kilogram of silver costs approximately £750. The retail prices are therefore likely, on today's estimates, to be £40,000 and £1,250 respectively.
Through these royalties, the Olympic coin programme will contribute to funding the London 2012 Olympic and Paralympic Games. This is of course a commercial enterprise and the Olympic coin programme will also generate revenue for the Royal Mint. The amount that the Royal Mint will make will depend on sales and on the final price of the coins, which will largely be determined by the price of gold and silver closer to the event. The Royal Mint being 100 per cent owned by the Treasury, all profits will end up in the public purse. For the past three years, the Royal Mint has paid a dividend from profits directly back to the Treasury as a shareholder.
Noble Lords will be reassured to hear that these kilogram coins form just one part of a whole range of products that the Royal Mint is issuing to commemorate the 2012 Olympics. The striking of kilogram coins will not be limited to commemorating the Olympics. To ensure that London 2012 and future events of national significance can be appropriately celebrated with commemorative coins that will be held in posterity for years to come, it is first necessary to make these minor amendments to the Coinage Act 1971. Therefore, I commend the Bill to the House. I beg to move.
Lord Addington: My Lords, when it fell to me to say a few words about this Act, a variety of things came to mind. A coin that weighs a kilo is certainly not small change or something that might be used in payment. Indeed, looking at the practicalities of putting these into circulation, I rapidly came to the answer that it would not happen. Therefore, calling them medals might have confused one or two of us rather less in the initial stages. However, from what the noble Lord, Lord Risby, has said, it is clear that such a coin would be either an investment or something that is kept. The only appropriate reference that I can find in literature is from Douglas Adams. One of his characters in Life, the Universe and Everything tries to pay with an American Express card millions of light years away from Earth, saying that they are accepted everywhere. The image of paying for something with this, using it as a normal coin, is almost incomprehensible to the average person. I suggest that this is a very good thing-a small thing but a good thing. I hope it will add a little to the whole experience of the Olympic Games.
Baroness Grey-Thompson: My Lords, I fully support the Bill. I declare an interest since I work for the London Organising Committee of the Olympic and Paralympic Games in several areas, going back to the bid stages. The production of a commemorative coin is most welcome, not purely because of the interest of a significant number of collectors. The fact that the Royal Mint is the licensee for these coins and they will be made in the UK is also most welcome.
London 2012 has led the world of sport in showing the inclusion and diversity of disabled athletes. A 50p coin is currently in circulation that shows wheelchair rugby, which is a unique sport in the Paralympic Games. The Paralympic reputation is incredibly strong around the world. The production of these coins will send a strong message. It is more than a commemorative coin; it shows how British society values diversity. While the Olympics and Paralympics have been mentioned, I hope that the Paralympic coin will also be included. I ask that consideration be given to, and strongly encourage, continuing this positive message by producing Paralympic coins, which I see as a very important part of our Paralympic legacy.
Lord Stewartby: My Lords, I am grateful to my noble friend Lord Risby for the clarity with which he introduced the Bill. I have a long-standing interest in
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I shall make just a few comments, first about the size and format of the coinage, and secondly about design. Since the Middle Ages the English currency has been based on a weight relationship. A sixpence contained half as much silver as a shilling, and so on throughout the range of values. I remember 40 or more years ago, when I was a trainee cashier in the City, that coins were sometimes counted using a shovel. Since their weights were all in relation to each other, you could quickly assess how much money you had.
If you have a handful of change, there will be a mixture of round and seven-sided shapes, but it is difficult to feel or see at a glance how much is in your hand. That has come about-I am sure it was not in any sense a policy-through the gradual replacement of denominations, one after the other. This has meant that there is a changing size slot for the introduction of new coins. However, the result is that it has not been very easy for those who use them.
As to design, the Olympic coinage will identify itself prominently. However, since the 1990s, special commemorative coins have been issued for other reasons, celebrating greater or lesser occasions. The £2 coin that one is most likely to find in one's pocket was introduced in 1997 to celebrate technological progress from the Industrial Revolution to the computer age. It shows one circle of buttons and another of what look like casts of a bunch of inebriated worms. More inspiration has subsequently been applied to this process. The design of the 2003 commemorative £2 coin, which looks a bit like a skipping rope to me, is meant to show the double helical structure of DNA. I would put big money on no other noble Lord having any idea about that; I did not myself until I looked it up for this debate.
There needs to be a degree of abstinence about striking commemorative coins. They are good and interesting but, if you overdo it, it rather spoils the market for specialist collectors. The other problem is that there is a temptation to use designs which are not widely familiar, such as the DNA one. The £2 coin is not really suitable for abstract or complex designs, even though it has often been used in that way. I make a plea that commemorative coins should not have designs that are too crowded. We should resist temptation to cram in as much as possible. We should leave it simple. There is no point in commemorating things if nobody recognises them. I entirely support what my noble friend and the noble Baroness have said. I hope that the new coin arrangements will be satisfactory and profitable.
The Lord Bishop of Chester: My Lords, I speak in the gap to seek an explanation. The Bill refers to Section 1(6) of the Coinage Act 1971, but the version of the Coinage Act that the Printed Paper Office is handing out does not have a Section 1(6), so has the Coinage Act 1971 been amended in the intervening period? Could we have an explanation of how the sections tie up?
The Opposition warmly welcome the Bill. On the innumerable occasions on which I spoke in this House as the former Minister responsible for DCMS, I never recall the issue of coinage crossing my desk when I spoke about the progress of the Olympic Games bid and its development. Here is yet another dimension of the Olympics which I heartily applaud. I think that, at times, we all must have some reservations about the extent to which the Olympic Games, which were born of the great amateur tradition in Greece and were sustained for a considerable period in the world in their modern form in amateur terms, have become commercialised. Here we are, a century or so after the modern Games were established, in an era in which everything is fairly professional and everything is likely to be commercial. It grates at times when you see some English teams proudly bearing the logos of major international companies. I hope that no British team bears the insignia of News International. If there is, it would be well advised to drop it fairly quickly. However, corporate logos play an important part in the Games; I guess that that is inevitable in this modern age.
However, we should have no reservations about the Royal Mint commemorating the Games and producing coins which are likely to produce a fairly healthy profit. I know that the Minister will seize with both hands the opportunity to praise this example of public enterprise. The Royal Mint has had an exceptionally good record, both while it was at the Tower of London and now that it is in Llantrisant in south Wales. It is a hugely successful enterprise. There is no doubt that the minting of these coins will result in significant gain to the Mint as the commemorative coins will be greatly valued.
I emphasise that there are aspects of the transfer of the Royal Mint to Llantrisant which have not been exemplified greatly in its products. I have never seen the Welsh dragon on any British coin. Given the location of the Royal Mint, it seems strange to me that it does not ensure that its ordinary coins bear some reference to Wales. That would not apply to all coins, of course, but we recognise that aspects of the United Kingdom are represented on £1 coins. However, the Welsh dragon, which is by far the most emphatic symbol of Wales, is not.
Lord Davies of Oldham: My Lords, this House is always informative on all occasions. I was aware of Henry Tudor's Welsh origins. I have never had any difficulty locating the circumstances of his birth and his commitment to Wales, although I do have great difficulty locating the relevant battlefield, given that historians have doubts about where Bosworth is located.
Baroness O'Cathain: Noble Lords who have visited the Supreme Court will note that the Welsh dragon is not represented on the arms of the Supreme Court but the leek is. Is that because the dragon is extinct?
Lord Davies of Oldham: I do not know about that. I have never had any hesitation about the Welsh leek, nor the Welsh daffodil, which is somewhat prettier and has a less pungent and unattractive smell. I hear what the noble Baroness says; I merely indicate that I have not seen an ordinary coin in circulation which reflects the Welsh dragon, although the Welsh dragon is an important symbol of Wales. I am surprised that the Royal Mint has not represented that dimension.
Lord Davies of Oldham: I am not sure about that. St George is venerated in about eight other countries in addition to England. I do not think that there has ever been any suggestion that the evil monster that he struck down was a Welsh dragon-far from it, I have never seen a depiction of the dragon that St George destroyed which remotely resembles the red dragon of Wales. I am sure that my noble friend will agree with that.
It is important to empower the Mint not just in terms of commemorating the Olympic Games and the Paralympic Games. I am very grateful to the noble Baroness for introducing that important dimension. We hope that the World Athletics Championships will also be a success and that we can resolve that small matter which seems to be continually contested by a club for which I have a great affection, Tottenham Hotspur, about what is going to happen to the Olympic stadium. We have to get the Olympic stadium's future absolutely clear, otherwise our ability to bid for significant events such as the World Athletics Championships will be damaged. The World Athletics Championships are not quite of the same significance as the Olympic Games but they are important sporting events in which the country takes great pride. We want the Mint to look at the serious issue of commemorating those events as well and this Bill will empower it to do that.
We should certainly be concerned about legacy because we would never have succeeded with the Olympics bid if we had not emphasised the Games' very significant legacy for this country, particularly for deprived sections of the country such as east London. Commemoration is also important. This Bill gives us the opportunity to commemorate the Games in a very distinctive way. That is why I am delighted to applaud the Bill. The Opposition give it their full support.
Lord De Mauley: My Lords, I start by thanking my noble friend Lord Risby for sponsoring the Bill and for leading this morning's debate. I also thank all noble Lords for their welcoming comments. Several have given helpful advice-in particular my noble friend Lord Stewartby and the noble Lord, Lord Davies of Oldham, and their points are well taken. If I may, I will avoid inserting myself into the Welsh discussion, except to say that I have sympathy with the general point made by the noble Lord, Lord Davies.
The legislation put forward by my noble friend is neither complicated nor controversial. Indeed, the Bill completed its passage through the other place, again with universal support from all parties. I am happy to say at the outset that the Government support it.
In the course of its 1,100-year history, the Royal Mint has become one of the world's leading international mints. Not only does it supply all coins circulating in the United Kingdom, it is the chosen supplier for more than 60 countries worldwide. Of course, a large part of its business-and the part that applies to today's debate-concerns commemorative coins. It is understood that for almost as long as there have been coins, there have been coin collectors. Originally hoarded for their bullion value, coins later started being collected for their artistic value. In this century, coin collecting is no longer an exclusive pastime reserved for the privileged classes. Indeed, its growing popularity has led to a re-coining of its description, and it is now known by many as the king of hobbies.
As such a long-standing and traditional pastime, it is perhaps unsurprising that market and consumer demand has evolved-which brings us to the reason we are here today. As we have heard, the Bill seeks to amend the Coinage Act 1971 in order to accommodate that evolution of demand and allow the Royal Mint to strike 1 kilogram coins. Experience shows us that there is a sizeable international market for kilogram coins. In the past 10 years, more than 40,000 Olympic kilogram coins have been issued around the world. Kilogram coins are an enduring keepsake, a lasting investment, and a valuable piece of numismatic art and history. It is therefore right that the London 2012 Olympic and Paralympic Games should follow their predecessors and feature kilogram coins as the crowning pinnacle of the Royal Mint's Olympic coin programme.
Overall, it is estimated that the Olympic coin programme will generate approximately £2 million in royalty income for Her Majesty's Treasury, as well as royalties for the London organising committee, the International Olympics Committee and revenue for the Royal Mint. Of course, the legislation does not limit the striking of kilogram coins to the London 2012 Olympic Games. Future events of national cultural and historical significance would also be able to be commemorated with kilogram coins. As such, this Bill will have a weighty impact for generations to come.
I echo the comments of the noble Baroness, Lady Grey-Thompson, about London's leadership in diversity in its approach to these Games. The Royal Mint Olympic coin programme has represented both the Olympic and Paralympic movements in its designs for the gold and silver kilogram coins, which commemorate
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The right reverend Prelate the Bishop of Chester asked how Section 1(6) of the 1971 Act arose. I can tell him that it was inserted by Section 1(1) of the Currency Act 1983. I hope that is helpful to him.
My noble friend Lord Stewartby made a valuable point that there needs to be a degree of abstinence in striking commemorative coins so as not to debase them. He is right. As my noble friend Lord Risby explained, the Royal Mint is planning on producing just 60 gold coins, precisely for that reason.
I repeat my thanks to my noble friend Lord Risby for sponsoring this Bill, the effects of which he has explained so clearly that I do not need to reiterate them. The Government fully support the Bill.
Lord Risby: My Lords, perhaps I may take this opportunity to thank all who have participated in this debate, including my noble friend Lord Addington. I, and I think the whole House, are grateful to the noble Baroness, Lady Grey-Thompson, who reminded us of the Paralympics aspect of the Olympics programme that will take place next year. There was also the most interesting speech of my noble friend Lord Stewartby, with his considerable experience and the point he made about abstinence. However, given the limited number of coins and their cost, by definition there will be a certain amount of self-denial in those who are able to purchase these very expensive coins. I also thank the noble Lord, Lord Davies of Oldham, for his support from the opposition Benches. I actually agree with his point about the dragon, simply because, after all, Welsh gold is a very significant part of the life of the Royal Family and is always commemorated in that way. I hope that those at the Royal Mint who may read these proceedings take his point on board. I am grateful for the points made by my noble friend Lord De Mauley.
As we have heard, this is not a controversial issue and this piece of legislation is not complicated. It enables the Royal Mint to deal with the Olympics taking place next year and with future cultural events. I therefore ask your Lordships' House to give the Bill a Second Reading.
(a) in subsections (1) and (2), for "the provision of music entertainment" in each place substitute "dancing",
(b) in subsection (2) omit-
(i) paragraph (b) and "and" immediately before it, and
(ii) in the words following paragraph (b), the words ", in relation to the provision of that entertainment,",
(c) omit subsections (3) and (4),
(d) in subsection (8)-
(i) for "music entertainment" substitute "dancing" and in paragraph (a) of that definition omit "(e) or", and
(ii) omit paragraph (b) of that definition and "or" immediately before it, and
(e) in the heading omit "and live music".
Lord Clement-Jones: My Lords, I shall speak also to Amendment 2. From the outset, in dealing with all these amendments, I want to assure your Lordships that with the exception of the third group, all the amendments are of a technical and drafting nature. The essence of the Bill-to deregulate the performance of live music and to provide for safeguards on a subsequent review if problems are created by the performance of live music-remains fully intact. I shall therefore be as brief as possible, but consistent with the need to explain the technical nature of some of the amendments. I want to acknowledge not only the assistance of my advisers in improving the Bill but that of DCMS officials who have been particularly helpful in helping me to draw up these amendments.
Section 177 of the Licensing Act 2003 at present relates to live music and dancing in small premises. However, the purpose of the Bill, as stated in the Long Title, is to deal only with live music. In fact, a later government consultation on, I hope, other aspects of entertainment is coming down the track. These amendments ensure that dancing is neither positively nor negatively affected by the changes that the Bill makes. To do this, Amendment 1 amends existing Section 177 so that it deals only with dancing. Amendment 2 creates a new Section 177A for live music. I suppose that we can now say that the Bill is not all-singing and all-dancing. Obviously, I hope that in due course the Government will, through their entertainment consultation later this year, say what can be done to deregulate dancing in small venues. I beg to move.
Lord Clement-Jones: I thank the noble Lord, Lord Skelmersdale, for that intervention. I can certainly say that singing is covered as part of entertainment in the circumstances. There is no question about that. Through the amendments, one is simply restricting the Bill from impacting on the dancing aspects of licensing.
Lord Clement-Jones: Dancing is often spontaneous. I am certain that the noble Lord, Lord Colwyn, engages in spontaneous dancing on frequent occasions, perhaps even when he is playing a musical instrument at the same time. However, technically speaking dancing in those venues, in licensed premises, requires a licence. The Bill is not designed to impact on the existing law. Future consultation may suggest that we can deregulate that-I firmly hope that we can, especially in small venues-so that the noble Lord will be freer to stand up and spontaneously dance in future, but that is not the intention behind the Bill.
Lord Stevenson of Balmacara: My Lords, I do not want to engage in the question of whether we will spontaneously join in any activity this morning, because it is still early, but I reassure the House that we support the amendment.
On Amendments 3, 5, 7, 8, 11, 12 and 18, proposed Section 177 contained in Clause 1 refers at various places to "music entertainment" or "live music entertainment". It is clear from the Bill and the definition of "music entertainment" in subsection (5) that all those references relate to live music. For the sake of simplicity, and to improve the drafting, the amendments ensure that the term "live music" is used throughout the provisions.
Moving to Amendments 4 and 6, in proposed Section 177(5) contained in Clause 1, there is a defined term, "supply of alcohol". However, elsewhere in Section 177, the Bill does not use the phrase "supply of alcohol" but instead uses "supply alcohol" or "supplying alcohol". The defined term ought to be used consistently throughout. Proposed Section 177(1)(a) also alters the wording about the circumstances in which provisions apply from being when the premises are,
The wording in the Bill, if applied literally, could mean that the premises would have to be supplying alcohol the whole time that the music entertainment was taking place. That is a somewhat surreal concept.
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Moving to Amendments 19 to 21, Clause 2 removes "entertainment facilities" from the definition of "provision-regulated entertainment" in paragraph 1(1) of Schedule 1 to the Licensing Act 2003, and removes other references to entertainment facilities in that schedule. I am sure that your Lordships will be familiar with the fact that "entertainment facilities" means the piano in the bar-or the piano in the street, which we will see during the City of London Festival. Currently, erroneously, the Bill does not include removal of the references to entertainment facilities in paragraphs 8, 11(b) and 11A(4) of Schedule 1. As provision of entertainment facilities will, under the terms of the Bill, cease to be regulated entertainment, all references to entertainment facilities should consequently be removed. The purpose of Amendments 19 to 21 is to remove those three references to entertainment facilities from Schedule 1.
Moving to Amendments 22, 26 and 31, Part 2 of Schedule 1 to the Licensing Act 2003 contains a number of exemptions where, in specified circumstances, the type of entertainment referred to is not to be regarded as regulated entertainment. In each instance in the schedule, the wording refers to "entertainment consisting of". These three minor amendments simply ensure that, in respect of the new exemptions that will be inserted into Schedule 1 by paragraphs 12A, 12B and 12C, the wording is consistent with what already appears elsewhere in the schedule.
in proposed paragraphs 12A, 12B and 12C are, I am advised, unnecessary. It is self-evident that references to live music in Schedule 1 refer back to the definition in paragraph 2(1)(e), and paragraph 2(1)(h) of Schedule 1 has the effect of making,
in paragraph 2(1)(h) apply not only to the description of the entertainment in Part 1 of the schedule but, where appropriate, to the exemptions in Part 2. That is a very complicated way of saying that some unnecessary wording will be removed from paragraphs 12A, 12B, and 12C, but I say that to put it on the record for those who are following the movement in the Bill's wording.
Finally, I turn to Amendment 34. That is another minor amendment which removes the words "or entertainment" from paragraph 12C. I am also advised that those words are unnecessary in the context of the provision and, to avoid confusion, should be removed. I beg to move.
Lord Stevenson of Balmacara: Again, I do not want to delay the House. I should have said the first time I spoke that much of what has just been said will have been completely incomprehensible-indeed, it probably still is-unless you have access to a Keeling schedule, which puts all the word changes proposed by the noble Lord, Lord Clement-Jones, in the context of the Bill as it would be if amended. I am very grateful to the noble Lord, Lord Clement-Jones, for providing that for us, because it makes our life that much easier. With that, I support the amendments.
Lord Clement-Jones: I beg to move Amendment 9 and shall speak to Amendments 30 and 36. I thank the noble Lord, Lord Stevenson, for his remarks on the previous grouping. The Keeling schedule is available for your Lordships if you wish to see how all the amendments would alter the Bill; I very much hope that you will avail yourselves of it. Of course, it will be reprinted after these amendments have been made so that, on Report, it will be much clearer what will be the total import of the Bill. I recognise that some of the technical amendments create some confusion in how they impact on the Bill and on the original Licensing Act 2003.
There is no doubt that this particular set of amendments is not technical but is indeed a matter of policy. The amendments move the time at which exemptions under the Bill cease to apply from midnight to 11 pm. I recognise that many low-risk performances may continue a little later than 11 pm-in particular, acoustic events, which pose no threat of noise nuisance-but I understand that the Government's position is that this issue has not yet been fully tested in public consultations and that therefore it would be difficult for them to offer support at this point. Therefore, in order to make sure that the general provisions of the Bill go through, I am content to have tabled these amendments to ensure government support. However, I very much hope that the Minister will be able to say a few words about the Government's position and confirm that there will be consultation on matters such as this in their entertainment consultation, which we are advised will take place later this year, and that further scope for exemptions will be consulted over. I beg to move.
Lord Stevenson of Balmacara: My Lords, given that this is the main point at issue, it is worth spending a few minutes on it. I agree with the noble Lord, Lord Clement-Jones, that in ideal circumstances midnight might have been a more appropriate time, as indeed was his original intention. Live music tends somehow to gain in character and quality as it moves towards the midnight hour. I do not think that many people would disagree with that, although, as I get a little older, I wonder whether I could survive as late as that.
In introducing the amendment, the noble Lord made it very clear where his sentiments lie and what problems the Government would have in accepting anything later than 11 pm. We have to have regard to the impact that any late activity has on localities and we should be respectful of that. Given that there seems to be some sort of agreement between the two sides-or, rather, between the two parties on the same side-that 11 o'clock should be the time that appears in the Bill, we would not object to it at this stage.
Baroness Garden of Frognal: My Lords, I am grateful to my noble friend for the opportunity to explain the Government's position on the time at which exemptions for live music would no longer apply. I add my thanks to those of the noble Lord, Lord Stevenson, for the Keeling schedule, which certainly brought some light to some fairly obscure parts of the Bill.
The Government have previously indicated that they are supportive of the measures to liberalise the licensing of live music but that they would like to see some minor changes to the Bill. Apart from some technical changes outlined in amendments tabled by my noble friend, we asked him whether he would bring forward the time at which the exemptions ceased to have effect from midnight to 11 pm.
We have to acknowledge that there are concerns from residents' groups and others about the impact of possible deregulation of licensing requirements for live music, particularly in relation to late-night noise, and that local authorities may be concerned about a possible increase in complaints at night. There are, of course, other interventions that can be used to tackle any problems of noise and disturbance, not least the continuing requirement for an alcohol licence in most venues. However, we have to recognise that 11 pm is generally accepted as the time at which it is not unreasonable to expect consideration for those who live near businesses and entertainment premises. That is why noise legislation already has special rules relating to the period from 11 pm to 7 am and why the Licensing Act makes special provision for takeaways and other late-night hot food premises to require a licence after 11 pm.
Those other protections might, in themselves, be a good reason why we could be more ambitious in relaxing the rules for live entertainment. However, the difficulty that the Government have is that previous consultation sought views on deregulation of small music events only up to 11 pm, and without a further test of public views the Government would be unable to support the Bill at this point if it retained the midnight cut-off. However, I should add in response to my noble friend that the Government are planning to consult shortly on wider reforms to regulated
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However, for the moment, and given the concerns that some feel about later cut-offs and the fact that this has not been subject to consultation, we believe that it is better to adopt a more cautious approach. Therefore, I am grateful to my noble friend for tabling relevant amendments, which, if agreed by the Committee, will enable the Government to offer their support for the Bill.
Lord Clement-Jones: My Lords, first, I thank the noble Lord, Lord Stevenson, for his extremely useful remarks. I also thank the Minister very much for her explanation of the Government's position. I think that that is completely understood. Obviously I hope that we will be able to go further than we do in the Bill by extending the time to midnight after wider consultation. However, I understand the Government's desire to have that wider consultation and, in the mean time, I am grateful to the Minister for giving us the background to their view.
Lord Colwyn: My Lords, the Minister should know that the licensee does not always have control over the finishing time. In London hotels, for example, the electricity can be turned off and the event will finish dead on time. However, it is up to the musicians when the party finishes, and I would hate a licensee to get into trouble if it carried on because the musicians continued playing.
Lord Clement-Jones: I thank the noble Lord, Lord Colwyn, for that intervention. With him, I am sure that the party never stops. I very much hope that there will be an understanding by musicians of the licensee's position in those circumstances, although there obviously has to be some leeway and I hope that the lack of a licence is used responsibly in future. It is very much hoped that those who take advantage of the exemptions in the Bill do so in a responsible way which does not cause nuisance.
Lord Clement-Jones: My Lords, under Section 172 of the 2003 Act, the Secretary of State may make an order providing for the relaxation of opening hours to mark an occasion of exceptional international, national or local significance. Such an order was made in respect of the recent royal wedding and I hope that there will be many more to come.
The current Section 177 of the Act, so far as it relates to premises licensed to supply alcohol for consumption on the premises, provides that conditions relating to live music do not have effect at any time when the premises are open for the purposes of being used for the supply of alcohol for consumption on the
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However, new Section 177(1) and (2) contained in the Live Music Bill provide that, so far as alcohol-licensed premises are concerned, conditions relating to live music will not have effect only if the music takes place between 8 am and midnight, or 11 pm as a result of other amendments. Although Section 172 of the 2003 Act allows for the relaxation of licensing hours for special occasions, as drafted the Bill would not allow the disapplication of conditions on live music to run in tandem with any licensing hours extension.
Amendment 10 allows the disapplication of conditions relating to live music to apply where extended licensing hours are granted as a result of a licensing hours order. In so doing, it preserves the benefit afforded to alcohol-licensed premises under the existing Section 177. I beg to move.
Lord Clement-Jones: My Lords, I shall speak also to Amendments 14, 15, 16, 24, 33 and 37. In the Bill, as presently drafted, there is a problem with the interaction between proposed Section 177 and proposed paragraphs 12A and 12C of Schedule 1. Paragraph 12A applies only to premises which are licensed for the supply of alcohol for consumption on the premises and paragraph 12C engages Section 177 only where the premises are licensed to supply alcohol. Given that where paragraphs 12A or 12C apply a performance of live music is not a licensable activity, there would be no need, and perhaps no power, for conditions to be included on a licence relating to the provision of live music.
On a review of a premises licence under Section 52, a licensing authority may, among other things, modify the conditions of a licence or exclude a licensable activity from the scope of the licence. However, the effect of the proposed Section 177(4) may be that, on a review, provision of live music becomes licensable, so effectively the licence would have to be amended to include a new licensable activity. A concern has been raised that Section 52 does not provide the necessary power to do that. There is also a conceptual difficulty with the proposition that whether or not an activity is licensable depends on the outcome of a review of the licence itself.
These amendments, taken together, resolve these drafting difficulties. They preserve the intent of the Bill that there should be an exemption from licensing for small audiences but enable a licensing authority to impose new conditions relating to live music at a review of a licence or club premises certificate as if the music were licensed, or to re-activate conditions about live music which would not otherwise have effect as a result of Section 177A(2). Again, I apologise for the highly technical nature of that explanation. I beg to move.
"(3A) On a review of a premises licence or club premises certificate a licensing authority may (without prejudice to any other steps available to it under this Act) add a condition relating to live music as if-
(a) the live music were regulated entertainment, and
(b) the licence or certificate licensed the live music."
(a) included in a premises licence by virtue of section 18(2)(a) or (3)(b), 35(3)(b), 52(3) or 167(5)(b),
(b) included in a club premises certificate by virtue of section 72(2)(a) or (3)(b), 85(3)(b) or 88(3),
(c) added to a premises licence by virtue of its inclusion in an application to vary the licence in accordance with section 34 or 41A which is granted under section 35(2) or 41B(3) (as the case may be), or
(d) added to a club premises certificate by virtue of its inclusion in an application to vary the certificate in accordance with section 84 or 86A which is granted under section 85(2) or 86B(3) (as the case may be);"
Lord Clement-Jones: In proposed Section 177(5), the Bill sets out a list of conditions which, if they relate to live music, do not have effect in respect of premises with small audiences unless and until there is
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The purpose of the amendment is explicitly to include all the provisions in the Licensing Act 2003 by which conditions can be added or imposed which are intended to fall within the operation of Section 177A and therefore remove the words,
The amendment also removes references in proposed Section 177(5) to conditions imposed under Sections 53B and 53C of the 2003 Act. These were inserted in the 2003 Act by the Violent Crime Reduction Act 2006 and relate to conditions that may be imposed on a summary review, or pending such review, in respect of premises which are licensed to sell alcohol and which are associated with serious crime or serious disorder. Given the seriousness of the circumstances that are likely to lead to a review under these provisions, the condition should definitely be removed from the list of conditions not having effect.
The amendment also includes reference to conditions added to a premises licence or a club premises certificate as a result of inclusion in an application to vary such licence or certificate. There is no reason why conditions arising in this way should be treated any differently from those imposed by a licensing authority on the grant of a licence. I beg to move.
(a) omit "or entertainment facilities", and
(b) omit sub-paragraph (b)."
24: Clause 3, page 3, line 25, leave out from "premises" to end of line 26 and insert "authorised to be used for the supply of alcohol for consumption on the premises by a premises licence or club premises certificate, if-
(a) the requirements of section 177A(1)(a) to (c) are satisfied, and
(b) conditions have not been included in the licence or certificate by virtue of section 177A(3) or (3A).""
Lord Clement-Jones: I shall speak also to Amendment 28. Takeaways and cafés serving late night refreshment must be licensed under the 2003 Act because provision of late night refreshment-refreshment between 11 pm and 5 am-is a licensable activity under the Act. On the present wording of the proposed paragraph 12B of Schedule 1, such premises would not be able to benefit from the workplace exemption because they are licensed under the 2003 Act, even though there is no link between the live music and the late night refreshment.
This was an unintended consequence of the drafting of paragraph 12B. Cafés, takeaways and similar establishments should be able to take advantage of the workplace exemption so as to be able to put on live music without a licence between 8 am and 11 pm. To achieve this aim, Amendment 28 adds reference to premises being licenced for late night refreshment into the proposed paragraph 12B, and Amendment 25 makes a consequential amendment to the title of that paragraph. I beg to move.
Baroness Garden of Frognal: I congratulate my noble friend on successfully tabling the amendments he has outlined today and on bringing us a step closer to a more proportionate licensing system. These are important measures that could help struggling venues and aspiring performers, as well as enhancing the cultural offering in local communities. Once the amendments are in place I am pleased to confirm that the Government are happy to support the Live Music Bill.
Lord Stevenson of Balmacara: I join the noble Baroness and add our thanks to the noble Lord, Lord Clement-Jones, and to the Government for supporting the Bill. This will radically change the way in which live music can be performed across the country. It was not well dealt with in previous legislation, which we very much regret. This is the way forward and we are delighted to support it.
Lord Clement-Jones: I thank the Minister and the noble Lord, Lord Stevenson, very much for their bipartisan support on this legislation. As I said earlier, I am delighted to have had the support of DCMS officials in improving the Bill technically. I very much hope that we will be able to move to Report and Third Reading after the Summer Recess with dispatch. There are literally thousands of musicians and performers up and down the country who will be really grateful to see this legislation go through. It will give great encouragement to young musicians in all kinds of different venues, many of which we probably cannot conceive of at the moment. They will be able to take advantage of these provisions. I am extremely grateful. I beg to move.
Lord Dholakia: My Lords, this is purely a drafting amendment to correct a drafting error in the Bill. It deletes paragraph (d) of new Section 5(1) of the Rehabilitation of Offenders Act which the Bill would
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Lord Bhatia: My Lords, I wish to make a brief comment that the Minister may wish to take into account. It relates to the young people in our armed services fighting for our freedom and safety and putting their lives and their health at risk. I want to draw attention to the recently published report by the Howard League for Penal Reform, The Inquiry into Former Armed Services Personnel in Prison.
I submit that the armed services provide an excellent canopy of care and support while the individual personnel are in service, but on retirement that canopy partly disappears and the gap is admirably filled by charities such as the Royal British Legion, Crisis and many others, not to forget and to acknowledge the exceptional work of the noble Lord, Lord Ramsbotham.
As a result of the problems and issues mentioned in the report that I have just quoted, some of these personnel end up in prison. My plea is that such people need greater understanding and support from the Government in designing amendments that give an easier and faster route back to society and jobs once they have served their time in prison. These armed services personnel risk their lives and health because we, the politicians, decided to send them to the battlefield. Therefore we, as the politicians, should now help to design and craft legislation that recognises the needs of those who retire and that enables them to have a quicker route to training, jobs and a normal life like anyone else.
The jobs market is difficult in the present economic climate. If an ex-member of our armed services has to declare that he has served his time in prison, his chances of getting employment will reduce substantially. Employers have a much bigger pool of people to choose from. I recognise that it will be difficult to find a solution to enable the retired person to be put on to a fast track to a job, but I sincerely believe that the public will sympathise if we legislate for positive discrimination for our retired armed services personnel. I fully support the amendment.
Baroness Northover: My Lords, I commend the noble Lord, Lord Dholakia, for taking forward his Private Member's Bill. I know that reform of the Rehabilitation of Offenders Act is an important issue for him and one that he has raised consistently in this House. I hope the noble Lord will understand that the Government are currently considering reform of the ROA and that I am not in a position today to make any announcement in respect of that review.
I hear what the noble Lord, Lord Bhatia, says and will ensure that my colleagues take his points into consideration. That said, this amendment seems entirely consistent with the intentions of the Bill, and I am happy to accept it.
Lord De Mauley: My Lords, in view of the fact that we have proceeded more speedily than was anticipated by noble Lords who intend to speak in the next debate, I suggest that it would be appropriate to adjourn for five minutes.
Lord De Mauley: My Lords, this debate is not time-limited, but if Back-Bench contributions other than that of my noble friend Lord Fowler were to be kept within seven minutes, the House would be able to rise by 3 pm. I am sure that all noble Lords, in preparing their contributions for today's debate, were conscious that there are ongoing police investigations into recent allegations about the news media. I am sure that they will have regard to those criminal investigations and will, in their comments today, make sure that they neither impede the investigations nor prejudice any potential trials.
Lord Fowler: My Lords, at the centre of this debate are Mr Murdoch and his media empire. He will go to the Commons next week, so I will start by reporting what he told the Lords Communications Committee when we interviewed him in New York four years ago. Perhaps because he was in his own office, he spoke quite freely about his ambitions. He said that the United Kingdom was "anti-success" and that this had prevented him from expanding further. He said that Sky News would be more popular if it was more like Fox News-not in its political standpoint, I emphasise, but in presentation and format. However, he said, "Nobody at Sky listens to me".
Most interesting of all were his views on his role as a proprietor. In the case of the Times and the Sunday Times, he said that the law required him to take no part; but with the Sun and the News of the World, he said, he was a traditional proprietor. This meant that an American owner was deciding the position of those newspapers on which party they would support and on big policy issues such as Europe; but it did not mean that the owner exercised daily editorial control. Indeed, he said, if he exercised that, there would not be the degree of celebrity coverage that there was in his tabloids. He added that he did not understand the interest in "Big Brother" contestants and, by implication, in their private lives. He said that was up to his editors.
I think that today, as his empire shows signs of cracking, he might regret that hands-off approach. It has been brought low in part by the preoccupation with private lives and private tragedies, and by the utterly unacceptable means used by one of his newspapers, the News of the World, to avoid the law and intrude into them. I note that today in the Wall Street Journal he states that News Corp has handled the phone hacking scandal "extremely well" and has made only "minor mistakes". It is not for me to advise Mr Murdoch, but I think that he might find that not to be the most convincing argument when he meets the Select Committee next week-particularly as another head has just rolled at Wapping with the resignation of Rebekah Brooks. This follows the entire tradition of there being a new development in the scandal every few hours. I am sure that by the time I sit down, another development will have occurred.
I will start by saying something about journalism and newspapers. I will say it from the standpoint of someone who was once a journalist and chairman of two regional newspaper groups. The Motion is not an attack on newspapers generally, nor on campaigning journalism. Indeed, we would not be having this debate were it not for the persistence of a number of newspapers and the skill of their investigative reporters: newspapers such as the Guardian, Independent, Financial Times and Evening Standard. We should always understand that newspapers are not and never will be there to give Governments, political parties and politicians an easy time. Nor are they there to allow businesses to trample over the rights of ordinary people. That is why the Sunday Times thalidomide campaign under Harry Evans some time ago was so important.
Nothing I will say is an attack on an independent press carrying out its traditional and irreplaceable function in a democratic state. However, it is an attack on any newspaper using so-called private detectives to hack the phones of the citizens of this country; it is an attack on any newspaper that tries illegally to intrude on the private grief of bereaved families; and it is an attack on those who carry out that trade and on the utter arrogance and callousness of those who authorise and pay for such efforts. I am not attacking good journalism; I am attacking the rotten and the criminal, and the people who do not deserve to be called journalists in the first place.
The test that I would apply to what may flow from the inquiries that have now been set up, and which I very much welcome, is: what is in the interests of the
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Let me be clear: the case for an independent inquiry goes back much further than the seven months of 2011. It seems that 18 months ago, the former Prime Minister, Gordon Brown, considered a judicial inquiry but now complains that he was given official advice not to have one. I seem to remember my old boss saying something about advisers advising and Ministers deciding but, whatever the rights and wrongs may be, we can agree that no inquiry was set up. Even before that, there was a strong case for an independent inquiry. Some may have considered it overwhelming. I remind the House that in 2006, the report of the Information Commissioner came out. It contained some very damning evidence. The Information Commissioner said:
"Yet investigations by my officers and by the police have uncovered evidence of a pervasive and widespread 'industry' devoted to the illegal buying and selling of such information ... Among the 'buyers' are many journalists looking for a story. In one major case investigated by the ICO, the evidence included records of information supplied to 305 named journalists working for a range of newspapers ... The 'suppliers' almost invariably work within the private investigation industry ... Suppliers use two main methods to obtain the information they want: through corruption, or more usually by some form of deception, generally known as 'blagging'. Blaggers pretend to be someone they are not in order to wheedle out the information".
Why have Governments-and I do say "Governments", as it is not one Government-up to now looked the other way, or at least failed to act? I fear that one reason is the impact that such action could have upon them. The traditional advice has been not to take on the man who controls the printing presses, and no man owned more in Britain than Mr Murdoch, who has a newspaper share of almost 40 per cent. The aim of both main parties has been to get his support. Mr Blair famously flew to Australia in search of his support, and my noble friend Lady Thatcher also had the same goal, but at least she expected him to come to her. I say in parenthesis that John Major was one of the few Prime Ministers who did not go courting. I was his party chairman for two eventful years, and I certainly tried a bit of peacekeeping with the Sun. I went down to Wapping to see Kelvin MacKenzie, the Sun's editor, to get the response that
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We all know that political leaders, Ministers and shadow Ministers have at times got demeaningly too close to proprietors. We now have an opportunity to put that right and to put clear water between the media and politicians, and I very much hope that we will take it. One of the proposals in the Prime Minister's Statement on Wednesday is that meetings between Ministers and proprietors, editors and the like should be recorded. I very much welcome that proposal and, if I may respectfully point it out, it was one of the proposals that the House of Lords Select Committee on Communications made in its report in 2008. We reported then on the position, and we highlighted the case of a Member of this House, the noble Lord, Lord Avebury, who,
Sometimes, if I may say so to my noble friend on the Front Bench, I think that Governments do not take over much notice of the House of Lords. There is a lot of media experience here. As I look down the list of speakers today, I see the ex-Times business editor, the ex-director-general of the BBC and the former chairman of the Guardian and I see the noble Lord, Lord Grade, who has the unique-I think it is unique-attribute of being the chairman of both the BBC and ITV. We started in Fleet Street at about the same time. He was on the Daily Mirror, I was on the Times, and he was infinitely better paid that I was. You also get alliances in this Chamber that do not take place in the other place. The noble Lord, Lord Prescott, and I joined the House of Commons on the same day in 1970, and it has taken us 41 years to be on the same side in a campaign. I am not sure what the public make of that. I hope they think it is an advantage. I hope that the Communications Committee can be taken into the consultations that the Government have on the committees that they set up and the rest. I know that my noble friend the chairman of the Communications Committee, who cannot be in his place today, feels that very strongly.
I think it would be wise if the political parties approached the inquiries to be set up with a certain amount of humility and recognise that we have all made mistakes over the past years. The aim should be to learn from them. The inquiries, which I very much welcome-I also welcome the appointment of Lord Justice Leveson to head them-give us that opportunity. Out of all the many issues, I shall pick three. First, the inquiry looking at media standards needs to examine how wide the abuse has been. We know that the News
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Secondly, we want to know why our defences have failed. Maybe the investigation of the police handling of this affair will have to wait, but no one should be in any doubt about how seriously the public take this issue. How can the break in the police investigation be explained? There are serious suspicions here, and those do serious harm to the public reputation of the police, which all serious people want to see preserved.
Of course, it is not just the police who are meant to be defending the public; it is also the Press Complaints Commission. It sometimes gives the impression of being a trade body, albeit with a disciplinary section for dealing with complaints, with the aim of defending the press. Whether that is fair or not, it is beyond dispute that over the past years the commission has not adequately defended the public interest. That may be because of a lack of powers or even of resources, but what is beyond dispute is that we must examine that and, in my view, seek to set up a strong and, above all, independent body to guard the interests of the citizens of this country.
Thirdly, the inquiry must examine the ownership of the media in this country. I think that underlying much of the reaction to events over the past two weeks is a strong public feeling in this country that Mr Murdoch has been allowed too much media power, that he owns too much of the British press and that full ownership of BSkyB would have further strengthened the position of what is a United States-owned company. I think it is crucial that we should revisit the rules governing foreign takeovers of British media companies. That position was changed fundamentally by the Communications Act 2003 and it has allowed the News Corp bid. Before 2003, there was a restriction on the stake that a non-EU company could take. The attitude of successive British Governments had been that, as we were prevented from taking no more than 20 per cent or 25 per cent in an American media company, there should be a similar restriction on United States companies. That position was very suddenly changed. We have now allowed United States companies to take full control but we are still restricted in the United States to 20 per cent or 25 per cent. On the face of it, that seems an absurdly weak position for us to be in and I believe that it should be examined.
We have just lived through the most dramatic 10 days in media history-certainly, the most dramatic that I can remember-where the positions have been changing literally hour by hour. The headlines say it all. One newspaper said, "The Sky falls in" and another said, "Rupert on the run". But after the storm, I suggest that careful and searching investigation is needed. I am sure that we will get that from the inquiry. As for Parliament, our role is, as is suggested in the Times today,
Perhaps I may say that there is a massive opportunity to weed out the criminal and corrupt from British journalism; an opportunity to ensure that the public are properly protected from abuse while ensuring that the legitimate role of the press is upheld; and an opportunity to put the relations between Governments, Ministers and politicians on a better and more separate basis. If we can achieve those things, very substantial good will result from these bleak and troubled years.
Baroness Royall of Blaisdon: My Lords, we as politicians are fond of quoting the famous dictum of Lord Wilson of Rievaulx, the former Prime Minister Harold Wilson, that a week is a long time in politics. The events of the past 10 days in British politics, British journalism and British policing are such that a better phrase might be, "Ten Days That Shook the World", which is the title of the US journalist John Reed's classic 1919 eyewitness account of the October 1917 Russian Revolution. The world may not quite have been globally shaken by the News International phone hacking scandal of the past 10 days, but the worlds of UK politics, media and policing have unquestionably been shaken to their very core.
Ten days ago, News International owned four major British newspapers. The bid from News International's parent company, News Corporation, for total ownership and control of BSkyB, which in revenue terms is Britain's biggest broadcaster, looked set to be nodded through by the Government. Rebekah Brooks, the former editor of the Sun and the News of the World reigned supreme at the pinnacle of UK media power as chief executive of News International. The political power of the company derived from the sheer scale of the circulation of its four titles and their reach into all parts and classes of Britain looked both unassailable and permanent.
A mere 10 days later, after 168 years of publication, Britain's biggest-selling newspaper, the News of the World, is gone. News Corp's bid for BSkyB is gone too-pulled off the table by the company in the face of concerted condemnation from across the political spectrum. Gone as well this morning is Rebekah Brooks, sacrificed or sacrificing herself to try to help save the company. Gone too, it seems-or at the very least substantially diminished-is the power, wielded over UK politics by News International and its founder Rupert Murdoch, of more than 40 years.
In comparison with the spring revolutions across the Middle East this year, let alone the Russian Revolution of 1917, this may not be that much of a change, but in comparison with what has run for so long in British journalism and British politics it is a revolution indeed. A number of factors led to this revolution. The most forceful and important has been the public. Public opinion can be hard to hear. Whole industries and a wide range of mechanisms, opinion polls, focus groups and all the rest have been established and have refined their techniques over many years to help us hear the public more clearly, but the moment the story exploded when the Guardian newspaper revealed last week-only
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The press has been vital. Good journalism has been the engine for driving out bad journalism. The work of the Guardian particularly, and especially of its brilliant and unswerving investigative reporter Nick Davies, on digging out what happened at the News of the World has eventually had an effect almost certainly far beyond what that newspaper and its journalists would probably have ever imagined. When the Guardian revealed that phone hacking by the News of the World had moved beyond politicians, celebrities and sports stars, and had spread into missing children, fallen soldiers, grieving parents and into police corruption, the issue crossed a line that marked, on one side, public indifference to what had been seen as a Westminster village insider story and, on the other, revulsion, horror, outrage and anger from people in all parts of the country and in all walks of life.
Parliament has been central to that revolution. My noble friend Lord Mandelson, a Member of your Lordships' House who knows a thing or two about politics and the media and their interrelationship said this week that the reason politicians chose not to tackle issues around media reform was that they were too fearful to do otherwise. This is a daunting but wholly accurate charge. In a democracy, Parliament and politicians should of course be scrutinised by the public, and from that organisations and institutions such as the media seek both to inform the public and to reflect the public's feelings, judgments and wants. However, that media scrutiny has over many decades become entangled with media power, and a particular kind of power. As Stanley Baldwin so brilliantly characterised it in 1931, it is "power without responsibility".
Politician after politician, from the Prime Minister onwards, now accepts that the relationship between politicians and the press has got seriously out of kilter. Fear of the media and fear of the consequences of getting on the wrong side of the media prohibited articulation of that before now, but in the past 10 days it has been articulated and it has been Parliament that has articulated it. It might have done so belatedly, but there is a real sense that there has been a shift and that a ratchet has been turned that cannot be turned back. Politicians from all sides of the political spectrum-right, left or centre-now have the prospect of being freed from the shackles of fear that have characterised the relationship with too much of the media. There has been fear of an unfavourable front page and fear of the public being turned against them by the media. As James Forsyth, who is not much of a friend of my party, says in this week's Spectator:
When in the 1990s I was trying to defend my party's relationship with the Murdoch press, my late husband, a principled and moral man of strong values, was critical. He was right and he would have been much relieved by the events of the past 10 days. It is the first time for decades that we, as politicians of all stripes, have started to regain our moral courage in relation to sections of the media. Some parliamentarians before now have, with real bravery, taken a stand over a much longer period. Labour MPs Chris Bryant and Tom Watson in the Commons, the noble Lord, Lord Fowler, from the Conservative Benches in this House, and my noble friend Lord Prescott, are most prominent among them. My right honourable friend Ed Miliband, our party's leader, has brilliantly led the way on this issue. I pay tribute, too, to my noble and learned friend Lady Scotland of Asthal, the shadow Attorney-General, for all the close legal work that she has been carrying on behind the scenes.
In the face of the Motion put down by the leader of the Labour Party in the other place, which drew support from all sides of the House, News Corp withdrew its bid for BSkyB. Parliament in the form of the House of Commons spoke with one voice, and even the most powerful of organisations had to heed that message. I imagine that today in this House we, too, will speak with one voice, which I welcome. News Corp's decision meant that this House no longer had to debate the same Motion today, but we can play our part. As I said, we on these Benches look to your Lordships' House today to speak with a similar singleness of purpose.
The events of the past 10 days are in all likelihood a long way from playing themselves out. Criminal investigations are likely to lead to criminal prosecutions. The FBI is now involved in the USA. The inquiry the Government have established, which we called for strongly and now warmly welcome, has a great deal of work to do, which will take a while. This will be a long revolution but it will be a revolution with many twists and turns. If earlier this week it felt as though the scandal had peaked with News Corp pulling its bid for BSkyB, it certainly does not feel like that today with the resignation, accepted this time by the Murdoch empire, of Rebekah Brooks. And it will not feel like that next week when Ms Brooks, by then free of her responsibilities as News International's chief executive although probably not from her contractual obligations, is due to be joined by who will by then be her former bosses, Rupert Murdoch and his son James, to give evidence to the Culture, Media and Sport Select Committee in the other place.
However, the nature of what has taken place and how it is being addressed means that this is a long-running issue, which in turn means that despite the imminent pressure of events there is a real opportunity now to get things right. The agenda to get things right, which the Prime Minister has laid out-police reform, press reform and political reform-is clearly the correct one and we on these Benches support it. Indeed, it is an agenda which my party has been promoting. Even within the constraints of criminal investigations, it is
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Even when you are living through them, revolutions can be hard to spot. It is not difficult when it is Egypt this spring or Moscow in 1917, but it is harder when it is an invisible but no less potent change such as the advent of the internet or of social media. Some of those changes have been behind the media desperation that lies at the heart of phone hacking, the ruthless competition that drove the News of the World to do things that could not and should not in any decency have been contemplated, let alone carried out, but however desperate and however hard the competition, whatever the reason, that can never be an excuse for what went on in Wapping. Criminal acts are criminal acts. The scale of phone numbers that have now been listed suggests not only that this went on, and not only was it regarded as normal, but that it would in effect have been automatic. As soon as someone-anyone, it did not matter who-was in a story, their phone was hacked. In other words, there were no limits on behaviour.
However, the public do have limits, which are set by the rule of law, by values, by community, by families and by good manners. What we have seen over the past 10 days is a world apparently without limits where a powerful group, the media, felt itself to be beyond the law and where any behaviour is acceptable and anything goes. We have seen that come into conflict with a world where limits do matter, where decency and good behaviour matter, and where standards matter-and where, over the course of the past 10 days, those values have won. No one can say that this will not lead to a permanent settlement and a new way of how these important institutions, what they do and what they stand for, will work in practice, but here and now there is a chance to learn; as the noble Lord, Lord Fowler, said, it is a chance for real change. That chance for change, for a small revolution in the worlds of the press, the police and of politics, is worth all of us-the press, the police, politicians and above all the people-seizing and working to secure.
Baroness Doocey: My Lords, the issue of phone hacking at News International has evolved into a major scandal with implications not just for the media, but also for the Metropolitan Police. I would like to focus my comments on the implications for the Metropolitan Police since the Met's conduct has, with some justification, I think, come in for quite a lot of criticism. There is an urgent need for reform. I shall preface my remarks by saying that in the seven years that I have been a member of the Metropolitan Police Authority, I have met some absolutely outstanding police officers who are hard-working, dedicated, efficient and effective. But I have no doubt that the last two investigations conducted by the Met into phone hacking at the News of the World were limited in scope, not given sufficient priority, and just not thorough enough.
I believe that one of the reasons for this-it is certainly a contributory factor-is the cosy relationship that was allowed to build up between senior officers of the Metropolitan Police and senior executives of the News of the World and News International. This has bothered me for a long time. I raised it with the Acting Commissioner at the beginning of this year in public at the Metropolitan Police Authority. I was concerned that on no fewer than 36 separate occasions between November 2005 and November 2010, senior police officers met with senior executives of News Corporation and News of the World. They did not just have meetings; they also had lunches and dinners. What I found most extraordinary was that the two officers who led both of the investigations were involved in some of these lunches and dinners. I believe that that could be open to misinterpretation.
I have no doubt that there is nothing wrong in principle with police officers meeting with the press. Indeed, I fully accept that they need to do so in order to do their job. But it must be said that the Metropolitan Police already employs 69 people in its press office, which is quite a lot. Equally, there is no doubt that if senior officers are going to have meetings, it is absolutely essential that a transparent system is set up to record such meetings, lunches and dinners. I have written to the commissioner asking that he set up such a transparent system and I have suggested that all officers of ACPO rank and above should record all meetings and all hospitality, including receptions, lunches and dinners-by that I also mean private dinners-with journalists and media executives. I believe that there should be a system whereby all hospitality by senior officers of a value of £25 or more should be recorded and that such information should be on record in a register that is updated every month and made freely available to anyone who wishes to examine it via the internet. Such a system would involve no greater effort or disclosure than that which the Met has already been obliged to make in response to Metropolitan Police Authority questions and freedom of information requests. The difference would be greater efficiency, transparency and promptness.
Never again should we have a system where meetings, entertainment, lunches and dinners are open to misinterpretation. The time is long overdue for a transparent system that is open for everyone to examine, and I strongly urge that this is set up without any further delay.
Baroness O'Neill of Bengarve: My Lords, it has been a tumultuous week and I am grateful that we are having this debate. We could have held it on any day, but it seems better to hold it at this end of the week because the terms of reference, or at least the draft terms of reference, for the phone hacking and media inquiry to be chaired by Lord Justice Leveson are now available.
This may not be the optimal sequence of inquiries, but we must accept that the practicalities of beginning the inquiry while police investigation and prosecutions are under way may be a reason to work on recommendations for the future before completing the inquiry into the past. Any recommendations for the future must take a critical look at different conceptions of press freedom, their strengths, weaknesses, and justification, and determine which best support media communication that enables the public to assess what they read, hear and view.
In my view, the best arguments for a free press in a democratic society see it as supporting public, social and cultural life. Yet during the past 50 years media freedom has often and misleadingly been equated with and reduced to freedom of expression. Freedom of expression for individuals is a classical liberal demand, most often justified on the grounds that individuals' speech is generally harmless and innocuous. In the 20th century, media as well as individual freedom has also been labelled freedom of expression. Yet while the speech of individuals is generally innocuous, that of powerful organisations often is not. The media are and should be in the business of communication, not of self-expression.
An equally liberal but more plausible justification for media freedom appeals to the need of democratic citizens for media whose communication they can understand and assess, so allowing them to play a full and critical part in public, social and cultural life. Where readers, listeners and viewers cannot tell whether content is deceptive, or even whether it has been obtained by illegal means, the basic purposes of a free press are undermined rather than supported. Self-expression is not enough.
Effective communication requires media that treat readers, listeners and viewers with respect, providing information and evidence that help them to judge content intelligently, and so to place and refuse their trust intelligently. This needs regulation that provides less flimsy ways of maintaining media standards than those of the much derided Press Complaints Commission, which works to standards much less robust than those once common in professional and public life which the media have repeatedly criticised as inadequate. It does not seem likely that the media have such exceptional probity that they, unlike others, can effectively regulate themselves.
Yet already we hear claims that media regulation on a statutory basis would be even worse. On Wednesday, the noble Baroness, Lady Royall of Blaisdon, suggested briefly that self-regulation must continue; I was glad to note that the Leader of the House, the noble Lord, Lord Strathclyde, was more cautious on this point. The fear of those who advocate self-regulation is that anything else would allow politicians to regulate the media, suppressing what it suited them to suppress, leaving us with censorship and not a free press.
Such claims are implausible. Press freedom is compatible with and best protected by regulation of the right sort. If we want evidence that regulation can be compatible with press freedom, we need look no further than the BBC, which is quite stringently regulated yet whose journalism has quite a high reputation for independence. Of course, the regulation that is right for the BBC cannot simply be extended to other media, and bad regulation, or regulation by politicians, would be risky and potentially disastrous. But there is no reason to settle for bad regulation, or to let politicians regulate. Setting up regulators indeed needs legislation, but regulators and their operational decisions can be insulated from political and party concerns. An appropriate media regulator could be expressly prohibited from controlling or censoring content.
Much can be achieved by regulating media process rather than media content. I offer three examples, one micro, one middling and one macro. I start with the micro example: transparency. Journalists, editors and proprietors could be required to declare their interests, like others in positions of influence, to list payments made and favours received-dinners, for example-without in relevant cases naming recipients and sources. They could be required to make such transactions, where they were financial, explicit in company accounts. The media have generally been keen to insist on the merits of transparency for others with influence and power, and what is sauce for the political goose is surely sauce for the media gander.
The second example is privacy. Recent revelations have made us all too aware that we need to revisit the question of privacy. Having incorporated the right to privacy into UK law, we have, perhaps understandably given the now acknowledged intimidation of politicians, failed to discuss, let alone implement, privacy protection. All that we have is the limited and clumsy protection afforded by the Data Protection Act 1998, which covers only organised, searchable information. A serious and unhysterical debate on privacy is needed if we are to find a form of media regulation that supports a strong, free and independent press that serves the needs of citizens.
The third example, the macro example, is plurality and culture. Media power in the UK is, as the noble Lord, Lord Fowler, reminded us, very concentrated. Much of it is in the hands of those with little stake in the future of the UK. Media regulation of concentrations of ownership and control could both help ensure that UK citizens have a plurality of offerings and that media power is exercised by those with a stake in our future. Is it right for those who pay no tax to have powerful voices in debates about taxation? Is it right for debates on UK strategic interests to be led by those who do not share our fate? Are citizens and democracy well served if many of those who control the media do not share citizenship, domicile or residence with their readers, listeners and viewers?
Lord Prescott: My Lords, I am very happy to be on the side of the noble Lord, Lord Fowler, on this occasion in demanding a public inquiry. It reflects well on the Houses of Parliament, both Commons and Lords, that they are demanding that some action should be taken. The noble Baroness, Lady Royall, spoke of eight or 10 days that shook the world; I am bound to say that this affair has been going on longer than that. It has been going on for a few years, and a lot of people have said nothing. I am glad that there has now been a complete change in the position and welcome the U-turn on the part of the Government in setting up a proper judicial inquiry.
The noble Lord, Lord Fowler, was also right to draw attention to the Information Commissioner's report in 2008. The commissioner pointed out that there were 30 newspapers involved in all sorts of illegal acquiring of information, involving hundreds of journalists and the paying of many thousands of pounds. The report was ignored. Admittedly, that was during the period when we were in government, but, on both sides, not enough has been done.
Since 2006 and the successful prosecution of the original rogue reporter, Clive Goodman, there has been a conspiracy of silence and denial among the police, the Murdoch newspapers and the Press Complaints Commission, which has only just rapidly come to think that something is wrong. Thanks to the remarkable work of Nick Davies from the Guardian in July 2009, I and others have campaigned to uncover the truth. I might say that we faced some hostility and resistance, particularly from Mr Yates and Mr Hayman, who were in charge of the original police inquiry. They have now accepted that their inquiry was wholly inadequate and replaced it with the far more competent Akers investigation, which will bring back a little credit to the Metropolitan Police.
I also venture to suggest that the Crown Prosecution Service's decision to side with the initial police view, writing to me to that effect, on ring-fencing the investigation and to ignore the 4,000 people who were hacked by Murdoch's News of the World, warrants closer scrutiny. There was far too close a relationship between the Crown Prosecution Service and the police in their agreeing to take no further action.
I also suggest that the decisions taken by Mr Hayman, the original Met investigating officer, and the noble Lord, Lord Macdonald, the former Director of Public Prosecutions, both to go and work for Murdoch, were unacceptable and raise questions of conflict of interest.
The consistent denials of events-particularly from Murdoch's News International-have been shamefully exposed by evidence that it had known about them since 2007. I hear Mr Murdoch saying, "We helped the inquiry by giving the evidence". All this evidence was available at the beginning in 2006 but no one wanted to open the bags of evidence and no one wanted to carry on the investigation; they decided to close it down. That is the big question not only for the inquiry to take into account but the reason why I ordered a judicial review. The police were failing to carry out the inquiry and, frankly, it was only when they came
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The Press Complaints Commission failed to investigate the case while accepting the one rogue reporter's story. The chairman, the noble Baroness, Lady Buscombe-I am sorry she is not in her place today-after attacking one of the lawyers trying to make the case, was forced to make a public apology and pay £20,000 in libel damages. She is the chair of the body that is supposed to hold the press accountable. The total inadequacy of the PCC to carry out its responsibilities was highlighted yesterday by the arrest of the former deputy of the News of the World, Mr Neil Wallis, who sits on the PCC's editors' code of practice committee. So a lot of vigorous and robust research into such actions clearly went on there.
The failure of the Government to recognise the need for an inquiry into the conduct of News International, or even to consider whether Murdoch was a fit and proper person to own BSkyB-an issue which I constantly raised in this Chamber over many months-were fundamental errors of judgment, as was the appointment of Andy Coulson. I warned the Prime Minister in a letter I sent to him two years ago saying, "You will make a major mistake if you appoint this man as your director of communications. You will learn to regret it". I hope that is how he now feels.
I now hear that the Commissioner of the Metropolitan Police hired the deputy editor to carry out investigatory work, to write his speeches and so on. No 10 was very unhappy about this because it was not informed, but, if the Prime Minister could hire Mr Coulson, why is he surprised that Mr Stephenson should go for the deputy editor? It all shows a lack of good judgment. It seems that this Government were more concerned about issues of plurality than morality.
The leading players in the Government and News International-the Prime Minister, Coulson, Rebekah Brooks, who I am glad has gone today; it is a step towards decent and responsible journalism in this country, although the 200 workers who have gone down the road from the News of the World might not appreciate that point too much-pretended that they did not know. They all said, "I did not know; it was not me, guv". Even Miss Brooks, I am told, said in a statement that she likes to be on the bridge. I was a seafarer for 10 years and I would not have liked her on the bridge if she did not know what was going on and in which direction she was going. That is why she has gone, thank God. It is a "not me, guv" culture.
The biggest culprit in the affair is the spider in the middle of the net-Rupert Murdoch. He completely controls News International. He runs operations around the world, building News International's media empire where there is more money to be made-Australia, the United Kingdom, the US and China.
China is interesting. I arrived back from China last week and someone gave me a book on Rupert Murdoch's ventures into China to secure television and media control. The Chinese were too wise for him. The business model that he adopted is described by Murdoch's vice-president in China in his book China Adventures. This tells how Murdoch tried to control China's television
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As an example, Harper Collins, which is owned by the Murdoch press, negotiated a contract with the noble Lord, Lord Patten, for his book on China. The Chinese authorities were very upset by what the noble Lord, Lord Patten, said about them and Murdoch was concerned that his commercial interests would be affected. He therefore ordered Harper Collins to cancel the contract for that book. This led to the resignation of editors from Harper Collins and the noble Lord, Lord Patten, described Murdoch's actions as "the most seedy of betrayals".
The Telegraph reported on this incident and described Murdoch as "the biggest gangster of all", and the FT said that Murdoch was "the modern master of the universe bent double before the potentates of the people in Beijing". Surprise, surprise, Murdoch's media-the New York Post, the Australian, the Times, Sky News and Fox News-hardly referred to the matter. It was similar here. Even the Wall Street Journal said of Murdoch at that time that,
I had to think whether that was the same journal I was reading today-and then I discovered that he had bought the paper. Normally there would be a right to reply, but Murdoch buys the whole damn paper and gets it to say what he wants it to say.
Murdoch is the man we are talking about. All the others are bit players; Mr Murdoch is the spider in the middle of this net. If we do not deal with him, he will just go back to the same old practices; he will bid for BSkyB and use pressure on politicians to influence them. That is what we know we have to deal with.
The FBI is now involved in investigations and so "News International" may soon become "Murdoch Crime International". It is a family business that has sought power, influence and money around the world. It has bullied Governments, taken out the competition and made billions out of the misery and grief of ordinary people. These days are now no more as the Sun sets on his miserable empire. Parliament must now address itself to finding a proper balance between private and public interests and we have started the debate here. The balance between public and private interests is an issue of public and human rights and we must address ourselves to that. Many individuals have supported this position but, at the end of the day, we have to be sure that we do not go back to business as usual. We must bring back decency and responsibility into the British press. We can start by completing the job with Murdoch.
Lord Glasman: My Lords, it is with some nervousness that I speak. This is only the second time that I have spoken in your Lordships' House-and I know that the first time all noble Lords had to behave themselves.
I am also nervous because I am extremely angry. This is the story of my life because I grew up with Murdoch's increasing power. The noble Lord, Lord Kinnock, is not in his place today but as I was growing up there
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This is not a party issue-new Labour was extremely complicit in accommodating Murdoch. That is why I have tremendous pride in the leader of the Labour Party for confronting Murdoch's power in Parliament. The Sun,Sky and the Times-but the Sun in particular-were already beginning to denigrate Ed Miliband; they started running six-minute loops of his repeated mistakes, pulling panda eyes and were beginning systematically to attack him.
When the leader of the Labour Party stood up to Murdoch it reminded me of the biblical story of King David. King David was sitting in his farm looking after his sheep-his brothers were generals and lieutenants in King Saul's army-and Goliath, the great bully, the giant who was going to attack them, was standing before him. Aristotle said that anyone outside law and relationships is either a beast or a god. In our contemporary life, Murdoch has been like a beast and a god: he could attack you and destroy you or he could give you great power and glory. He was outside of constraints and outside of law. It was with great courage that the leader of the Labour Party stood-as King David stood-before the bully and, with a single stone, laid him down and began this change.
It is a great honour to the Government that they followed the lead of the Labour Party and began to speak of some virtue in our lives-because what we have had is vice. What Murdoch has bought, and we can see it all around us, is accommodation, corruption and fear. We can see it in the police and the Government; in both sides, there is a real fear to speak freely and a relentless war on the daily lives of politicians. There are good days and bad days-we all have them-but our civility was coarsened by Murdoch. It is a wonderful thing that it is Parliament which has stood and that within Parliament we have asserted that this tyranny cannot go on.
Every day when I come in, I give thanks to the statues of the barons around here, because they held the sword to King John's throat when he said that the King could rule without Parliament. They said that it always had to be a relationship and that the King had to rule in Parliament. Whoever held the sword to Murdoch's throat? Who was Murdoch accountable to? He was a beast and he was a god-he was outside of all relations. So it is a wonderful thing if we can follow the Commons' lead here and say that in our politics we need courage and leadership and that people make mistakes, but we in this country govern and rule ourselves with our free institutions and choose
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I urge noble Lords to remember that this Chamber is the crown of the constitution. Our obligations are to uphold the ancient liberties and the balance in the constitution to make sure that there is always reciprocity and balance in relationships-and I am sure that today we will not fail to uphold that duty.
Lord Grade of Yarmouth: My Lords, as my noble friend Lord Fowler has happily reminded me, I started my working life as a trainee sports writer on Hugh Cudlipp's Daily Mirror, a brash but intelligent, mass market, pre-Murdoch tabloid. It was the people's paper and it sold five and a quarter million copies every day. That was in the 60's. Since then, I have been involved in the discussion and resolution and management of countless tricky editorial issues at ITV and Channel 4 and as a quasi-regulator at the BBC. I have even recently been a complainant.
I do not want in any way to anticipate the outcome of the judicial inquiries to come, particularly on the future of press regulation. My remarks today in this welcome and timely debate are designed to explore some principles and arguments that will inevitably centre, and have indeed already centred, on the statutory versus the self-regulatory.
The knee-jerk reaction to the current scandal is that the newspapers have been drinking in the last chance saloon of self-regulation for so long that it is now well past chucking out time. The press has always set its face against statutory regulation, denouncing the very idea and dismissing it as the enemy of free speech. Well, "Up to a point, Lord Copper". There is an overwhelming argument against statutory regulation, which I will come to, but I am not exactly sure that this is it.
The noble Baroness, Lady O'Neill of Bengarve, is right. The news and current affairs journalism at ITV, Channel 4, Channel 5 and Sky are regulated by the statutory media regulator, Ofcom, which drafts statutory producer codes. The BBC's news and current affairs is overseen by two bodies, both Ofcom and the BBC Trust with overlapping powers. I join the noble Baroness, Lady O'Neill, in saying that there is no evidence whatever on the screen that this statutory regime inhibits their freedom to carry out responsible and robust overlapping powers. However, what statutory regulation cannot and will never be able to do is to prevent wrongdoing from happening. Anyone who thinks that it can, please see me after, and I will take them through the thick volume marked "Broadcasting horror moments"-but please, not before the children are in bed at nine o'clock. But after broadcasters get it wrong, they certainly get it in the neck, and they feel it in the wallet, from Ofcom. But let us not ignore in this debate that statutory regulation in broadcasting is fundamentally there to ensure impartiality, an irrelevant concept for newspapers.
Having said this, let me say precisely why I come out against statutory regulation. My objection is founded on my recent experience. Here I must declare my
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The notion of trying to draft a statute to enable pre-publication desist notices while maintaining a free press does not belong in a democracy. Such a statutory regime would undo at a stroke the good works that the PCC presently undertakes. Ordinary members of the public derive huge comfort and satisfaction from the power of the PCC to influence newspapers, and sometimes TV editors, and to influence their behaviour-this is the important point-ahead of publication. This is the untold good news story of the current self-regulating regime. This must not be lost. For me it is the self-evident and overwhelming argument against statutory regulation.
In the debate about a new and improved form of self-regulation, of course there are many lessons to be drawn from the present regime. I give a few examples. In my view, any new model needs to pass the Caesar's wife test: it must not just be independent but it must be seen to be fully independent of those it is regulating. Any future constitution and governance structure needs to deliver transparent independence from the working press. Crucially, it will need greater powers of sanction. This will need to be binding on all newspapers. There must be no room in self-regulation for any single newspaper to opt out. Any new model will need to be properly resourced and therefore able, if necessary, to afford to commission independent investigations as required. The current PCC has no such funds. Funding for the new body can still be required from the newspapers themselves as at present. This is no different from broadcasting, advertising and other regulated sectors. In future, the chairman, like the rest of the board and staff today, should be appointed independently and not by the newspapers.
I think we can all agree that a robust and free press is an essential dynamic in a functioning democracy. Any new regime must serve those two principles and it must also be capable of promoting the ethical imperative. But make no mistake: only self-regulation can be relied on to continue delivering ex-ante relief and restraint for the members of the public it is there to serve.
A word here, and in conclusion, on what action might be taken in the interim, as we await the outcome of the judicial inquiry or inquiries. Leaving to one side, as if that were possible, the unconscionable intrusions into grieving families' privacy, perpetrated by the criminal activities of the late News of the World, the secondary
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The recent television equivalent of this print crisis, as your Lordships may recall, was the premium telephone scandal that, ironically, the press so valuably exposed. Broadcasters immediately realised that to restore their reputation, they had to face up to the problem-and quickly. No expense was spared on independent legal and forensic audit inquiries. Millions of pounds of compensation were voluntarily paid to charities and all the evidence gathered was handed both to the police and the regulator. Fines were then imposed; reputations were slowly restored. As President Nixon discovered, it is not necessarily the mistake you make; it is the subsequent cover-up that does for you.
"The thing that's different between the print and broadcast media's separate catastrophes is public trust in and opinion of tabloid newspapers has been low for years and they've survived without it. So the question we have to ask is: what motivation is there for newspapers to get their house in order?".
My noble friend points out that the tipping point in public opinion was when the hacking moved from the rich, famous and powerful-the bankers, celebrities and MPs-to ordinary folk, like the Dowler family, like themselves. The papers are felt to have turned on their own readers. My noble friend then offers this advice to the newspapers:
I hope the whole House will agree with me that, as a first step to demonstrating that the whole press is on the side of its readers, national newspapers-title by title, editor by editor -should make a statement in their own columns that they condemn the chasing of spurious scoops by criminal means and, further, they should declare unequivocally that their paper has not taken part in any such activities. We all hope that this issue is limited to what we know today but, in the words of Private Eye, I think we should be told.
Lord Campbell of Alloway: My Lords, may I ask one short question? Having listened to this debate and, indeed, to most of the debates-I apologise for having lost my way here-surely care has to be taken to ensure that the requisite freedom of the press, and I stress requisite, is not inhibited? Some of the reasoning was just given by my noble friend.
Baroness Kramer: My Lords, I hesitate to rise in these circumstances. I wanted to speak today not because I have any special or exceptional knowledge of the media industry but because it is incredibly important that we have as many speakers from all parts of this House on this Friday afternoon, which is probably not convenient for anybody who is here, to make it clear both how significant we regard these issues and that we will not allow the matter to slide away. With the extremely welcome appointment of the inquiry under Judge Leveson, the closure of the News of the World, the resignation-as we now know-of Rebekah Brooks, and the agreement of the Murdochs, father and son, to appear before the Select Committee next week, it would be very easy to become complacent and assume that this matter will now work its way out through the system.
I believe we have a unique opportunity now to try and contribute to finding the right footing on which to put the regulation of the media in this country so that we both protect the absolutely critical and crucial freedoms of the press-as the noble Lord who believes that his words will have been struck said-and protect the public from abuse. It will be clear to anyone who has listened to the Murdoch family that they expect this issue to go away, while Mr al-Waleed and other investors in News Corp see that there will be an opportunity to come back and bid for the rest of BSkyB once the dust has settled. I recommend to anybody today's copy of the Wall Street Journal, which is sitting in the Library, for the interview there with Rupert Murdoch. Others have quoted in detail from it but, frankly, you could use the words, "Butter wouldn't melt". There seems to be no real recognition, certainly from the Murdoch empire, that the matter has changed, even though that has to be absolutely clear to the rest of us.
In terms of reform, if the mechanism is to be the Leveson inquiry, it is going to be important that this House contributes to looking again at the appropriate structure for the Press Complaints Commission. I have to say to the noble Lord, Lord Grade, that I do not think that the public have the kind of confidence in that body that he may have suggested. At the very least, it looks utterly impotent. I believe that to most of the public it looks as though it gives the interests of the media much more significance and weight than the interests of the individual. It would seem that fundamental reforms are needed, such as making sure that the commission at least has a majority of lay people on it-somewhat closer to two-thirds-having a tightening-up and, perhaps, the actual implementation of the code of conduct and having proper penalties, which have not existed in the past, including potential imprisonment for the obtaining of personal information. It seems to me that there have to be real teeth to any commission but that has not been its past character.
We have sat around with the phone-hacking scandal on our hands for several years, in which the evidence has either been in the public arena or, certainly, before a very wide range of people and the Press Complaints Commission has been able to act in only the most limited way to deal with that crisis. Frankly, if we had
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I thought it might be quite interesting, since the issue of plurality has come up, to take a look at the stable-mates of the News of the World and see how they had been covering the phone-hacking story, especially since all of them regard themselves as aggressive, investigative media outlets which look without fear and favour. It has to be said of the Times, the Sunday Times and BSkyB that they were, essentially, very late in coming to the table and recognising the issue. When they finally did, there were quality stories but it cannot be said that it was the best day for outlets that call themselves investigative freedom fighters on behalf of the public.
Looking at the Sun, it struck me as absolutely appalling that there was almost no coverage. When it finally came, if you were reading the Sun you would have assumed that Rupert Murdoch had uncovered the phone-hacking scandal and was leading the investigation and looking for the remedies. I found it most chilling of all-this may go back to my first point-that the editorial on 11 July by Trevor Kavanagh, which was essentially regretting the death of the News of the World, was a diatribe against the BBC. It ended with a scarcely veiled threat that basically said:
The notion that the empire has accepted the verdict of the public and recognised the full extent of these issues is very far from the reality. We cannot allow that creeping dominance of the political voice, by either the Murdoch empire or any other empire, to happen again.
I raise again the issue of ownership, which others have mentioned. It struck me that we might have been in an extraordinary situation in the next few days, in which Murdoch father and son could have been called before the Senate in the United States but we might have found ourselves impotent to call them before a committee of this House. It is still unclear to me what the legal position of this House is in relation to owners of newspapers who are not citizens of this country. That whole issue has to be part of the examination. As someone else pointed out, it might be interesting to raise the issue of tax residency when we are having that kind of conversation. We cannot face that kind of humiliation again.
I come from a party that obviously has not had close relationships with the Murdoch empire. One can say that it has either ignored us or, from time to time, viciously attacked us-it did so in a very personal way to Nick Clegg at the most recent election. I am convinced, though, that we have to hold together and be above party in the way that we deal with these issues. I went to hear part of the debate in the other place, and I have to say that it began to break into a partisan debate across the Floor. That did nothing to assist us in the primary purpose that we must have, which is to
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I looked at a speech that James Murdoch made in 2009, where he said that the independence of the press could be protected only by profit as the primary driver. I think we would agree that the independence of the press is assured not by profit but by recognising the values of our society, the rights of the individual and putting the freedom of the press alongside that. Let us take this opportunity to ensure that we achieve the greater good, the silver lining, out of what has been a terrible cloud.
Lord Davies of Oldham: My Lords, events have moved at a break-neck pace in recent days-even this very day, with the news of the resignation of Rebekah Brooks. It therefore behoves us all to recognise the difficulty of analysis in such rapidly changing circumstances. We need to recognise the fundamentals of the problems that face us. It has often been said that the United Kingdom enjoys the best press in the world and a great deal of the worst. This may be an opportunity to ensure that our people are served by somewhat better than the worst as far as the tabloid press is concerned.
We should not underestimate the extent of the public revulsion at what has gone on and the public will of course expect intelligent and considered action by us. The problem is that, while we live in emotive times with regard to these issues, there will be a considerable lapse of time before the public inquiry produces its analysis and its identification of wrongdoing. The extent to which that then sustains the public will for effective change is an interesting dimension of the difficulties that we face.
I served on the Select Committee on Culture, Media and Sport in the other place for several years. I recall the Sun newspaper, in the form of its extraordinary editor at that time, Kelvin MacKenzie, coming to the committee simply to display his total contempt for all politicians and the political process and to indicate that the Sun was the moral force that actually responded to the people, while politicians were not worth a row of beans in terms of their attempts to inquire into the issue of the power of the press.
Things have changed, partly because public opinion has expressed revulsion at what has gone on. That opinion has been guided by the fact that several talented individuals, like Nick Davies of the Guardian and my honourable friends in the other place, Chris Bryant and Tom Watson, have been brave enough to sustain an argument that we as politicians, as we all know, have often shied away from in the past, simply because of the raw power of the Murdoch press. The fact that the balance has changed and we have an opportunity, though, does not mean that we should underestimate the difficulty of responding to that opportunity.
I appreciated the points that the noble Baroness, Lady O'Neill, put forward about the challenge that lies before us. Are we in this country going to produce a law of privacy that protects individuals from the most outrageous intrusions into their lives? We all
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Then there is the aspect of press regulation. I agree with all the speakers who have indicated thus far that self-regulation looks to be a busted flush, certainly if self-regulation means a minor revamping of the Press Complaints Commission, which has manifestly failed to play its role in the emergence of this crisis.
What is the model for regulation if not self-regulation? I agree with those noble Lords who have indicated that we might start by looking at television regulation. After all, we are conscious of the fact that there is a great deal of freedom for, and some significant impacts on public opinion have been produced by, effective investigative television journalism-some of the best in this country. However, is it the case that the nature of television regulation is readily applicable to the press? There are some real difficulties in that area. That is why this debate-which has gone on for at least two decades, and I guess rather further back into the mists of time than that-indicates how difficult the position is.
We should rejoice that the cathartic effects of recent developments are such as to give us the chance to give our people a better deal than that which has obtained in the worst of the press in recent times; unless, that is, one thinks, "Well, it is just Murdoch and News International". I remember my father's shock 50 years ago in a "liberal" household at the News Chronicle, a definitively reputable organ of civilised opinion, being replaced by the Daily Mail through our letterbox. As far as he was concerned, the Daily Mail was a right-wing junk newspaper substituted for the Chronicle by the sheer force of the ability of the Harmsworth Press to buy out the title and do so.
These issues of press ownership have been with us for a considerable period. Although we are now concentrating on News International, we will have to legislate for the press in this country in general. We do not have an easy path before us.
Baroness Wheatcroft: My Lords, I first congratulate my noble friend Lord Fowler on having pursued this issue with such vigour. I also support his opening remarks that we should not condemn all journalism because of the allegations surrounding some newspapers.
I do that with something of a vested interest, as someone whose career has largely been in journalism. I have worked extensively for what is now dubbed "the Murdoch press", particularly the Times and the Wall Street Journal; occasionally I still write for the Times. Having listened to my noble friend Lady Kramer, I confess that, having always had the highest admiration for the editorial standards of the Wall Street Journal, I concur that this morning's interview with the proprietor
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There is no excuse for the phone hacking and bribery. Now, quite rightly, both practices and the industry in general will be examined by judicial inquiry. However, we must be careful not to endanger journalism in general. It can be a force for good. The London Evening Standard's current campaign to improve literacy has the potential to enhance many thousands of lives. It may not be on the same scale of bravery as was that of the Sunday Timescampaign on behalf of thalidomide victims, but it is shining a light on something of which politicians should be ashamed.
Responsible journalism should continue to do that. It should inform, it should stimulate, it should even entertain-but it should never mislead. If it does err, it should be quick to point to the error of its ways. That is why I was somewhat surprised to see that great campaigner for press morality, the paper that has done so much to expose phone hacking, the Guardian, decide that its corrections column on page 36 was the place to tell readers that, actually, the Sun's story about Gordon Brown's son was not the result of information being obtained from accessing medical records, as the Guardian had so boldly declared to the world. Newspapers can be as guilty as politicians of finding a good place to bury bad news. I contend that page 36 is probably not the place.
Now that the spotlight is shining so intently on my trade, it is quite right that we should be focusing on areas beyond hacking. The relationships between the press, the police and politicians are now rightly under scrutiny. However-and I know that there will be many in this House who do not believe me-in many years of working for Rupert Murdoch, both at the Times and the Journal, I never felt under any pressure to write a particular story or take a particular line. I was free to express the opinions that I held, and they were rarely flattering to the Governments that my proprietor supported. Nevertheless, I wrote what I wanted.
However, I experienced appalling pressure from what I suppose one must term the other side of the divide. Noble Lords may recall that when Gordon Brown became Chancellor, he installed as his henchman one Charlie Whelan. My economics editor at the time wrote a story to which the Chancellor took exception. Mr Whelan called her and, when the swearing came to an end, told her that the Times would be punished. It would be ignored for a year-no invitations, no press releases and no interviews. As far as the Treasury was concerned, it would not exist. We took this to be bluster but the curse of Whelan duly took effect. My economics editor, a well respected journalist, tried reasoning but to no avail. We did not get the information that we needed on behalf of our readers. In the end I had to take up the matter with the Permanent Secretary, who quite understood that a politician or his adviser
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Bullying on that scale is rare but it shows why we must be careful not to see the relationship between politicians and the media as merely the first always trying to curry favour with the second. In its current form, this relationship works both ways. Both have a degree of power and influence and use it, not always in the right manner. The media are hungry for scoops and politicians can hand them out. In City journalism, where I cut my teeth on a Sunday newspaper, in the old days we would wait for what was known as the Friday night drop. Before insider trading became an offence, public relations people would go around, distributing various "scoops" that we could print on Sunday. That dried up when the law was tidied up, but the same thing has not happened in political journalism; scoops, interviews and exclusives are handed out.
Increasingly, the trend has been for announcements that should be made by the Government to Parliament being made instead through newspapers to their readers. This is not healthy. The rot had clearly set in when Tony Blair, as Prime Minister, told his team, as they developed their policies on the family, that,
In those words are encapsulated two of the problems that have contributed to the current miasma: too much emphasis on the cult of personality and too little respect for Parliament. The former has led to the media being awash with stories about the private lives of people, many of whom I have never even heard of but who seem to be worthy of headlines. From what has come to light it seems that much of the hacking was aimed at establishing what footballers were doing off the field-a variation of the offside rule, as I understand it. The public are clearly interested in this stuff but it is not in the public interest that appetites for seedy gossip should be fed.
As these inquiries progress, we will examine what really is in the public interest. Things have to change. It will not be easy to reach agreement on this. It will be even harder to find a means of regulation that can safeguard it in an internet age. I am grateful to my noble friend Lord Grade for his ideas; there is meat there on which we can build. Regulation clearly needs to be tightened up.
However, on the second point-that of relationships between the media and politicians-I was grateful to the noble Lord, Lord Glasman, for reminding us of the story of King David. The message is that politicians need to be brave. They should not quake with fear of newspapers, whether they are owned by Murdoch or anyone else. As Prime Minister, my noble friend Lady Thatcher did not kowtow to any newspaper baron. She did what she believed in. There is a message there.
Lord Howarth of Newport: My Lords, there has been a national shudder of shock, anger and shame at the degradation of certain sections of the press that has been brought to light; at the corruption that has been exposed in the police; and at the unhealthy
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There is a loathing of the recklessness with the truth of some journalists, the all too habitual trivialisation of issues, the assumption that there appears to be in extensive parts of the media that the attention span of the public is minimal and that issues are best reported and discussed in terms of personalities, and that politics is little more than an unsatisfactory subset of the entertainment industry. There is a loathing of the selectivity of reporting, the blurring of fact and opinion, the hypocritical combination of high sententiousness and low practice, the wilful confusion of the public interest with what interests the public, as the noble Baroness, Lady Wheatcroft, just said, and the swaggering rejection of ethical obligation on the basis that journalism is not a profession but a trade. Legislators must be concerned if journalists set themselves above the law, particularly if newsgathering methods include bribery and hacking. Legitimate ends surely cannot justify illegitimate means. There is a loathing of the cynical exploitation of self-regulation and the contempt with which elements of the press treat the Press Complaints Commission and its code. What we witness and what we dislike is the exercise of power without responsibility and what we loath, on the occasions when it occurs, is the cruelty of the media-the malice and the thuggery of the press pack in full cry, which is the modern equivalent of the lynch mob.
While these are proper grounds for disapprobation, they are liable to be mixed with a jealous resentment which may be less legitimate and which we ought also to consider. Politicians often feel that journalists do not take them at their own estimate of themselves, are insufficiently deferential and do not report them as they ought to be reported. There is a feeling that, if they notice us at all, it is to caricature us, and that humiliation at the hands of the sketch writers is the best recognition that many a Back-Bencher will ever receive. There is a resentment among politicians that many journalists are better than they are at their job-they are cleverer and quicker. There is a jealousy that in the public perception and often in reality journalists rather than politicians lead the national debate, and that campaigning journalists are often more effective than campaigning politicians. There is a fear on the part of politicians that the media have displaced Parliament. Where is the true debating chamber of the nation? Is it the House of Commons or is it the studio of the "Today" programme, of "Newsnight" or the editorial column of the Sun or the Daily Mail? There is a competition for power between politicians and the media and politicians feel that they have been losing that competition.
That atmosphere of jealousy, resentment, loathing and exultation in the new discomfiture of an enemy is not the best atmosphere in which to design reform. The Government were right to set up an inquiry led by Lord Justice Leveson which will proceed deliberately and gradually to advise politicians and government on what may best be done. What we should have no doubt about is that reform is essential.
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