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Lord Renton: My Lords, first, I repeat the congratulations that have been offered to my noble friend Lord Inglewood. He has shown the most amazing grasp of the tremendous detail in this Bill and of the amendments moved in relation to it. He deserves congratulation.
I gladly support the Bill so far as it goes. But it does not go far enough in certain respects. I hope that the Government will keep an open mind over some outstanding matters as the Bill goes through another place.
The BBC has some great achievements to its credit. But there are other matters on which I have to say it fails badly to this day. I shall come to chapter and verse on this in a moment. My main concern relates to the amount of violence and sex on television. Up to now neither the broadcasters nor the staff of the BBC, nor always the staff of the independent companies, nor the British Standards Council between them have succeeded in reducing substantially the amount of violence or explicit sex on television, even though the governors and staff of the BBC all claim that they are dealing with the problem.
Only the governors can intervene under the law as it stands and under the law as it will stand. They are to be the only regulators. But they are not independent. The independent television companies have an independent regulator. There is no reason why the BBC should not have one. Yes, the governors are splendid people. The vice-chairman is sitting opposite us and he is a man for whom we all have a high regard. But despite him and all the other governors, those defects have continued week after week. The Government must apply their mind to this matter. They must have a fresh mind on that point.
The next page concerns the amount of on-screen violence that is shown. It suggests that it has fallen markedly in recent years. I wish that were true. When one studies the complaints bulletins, one knows that violence is still being shown. Many of the complaints are upheld, not only of the BBC but of independent companies also. A rather interesting sentence states,
As has been said, unless something is done, we must suffer 10 more years of uncertainty. I say to my noble friend Lord Inglewood--and I hope he will tell his Secretary of State--that instead of waiting 10 more years, let us deal with the matter in the ways suggested by the noble Lord, Lord Chalfont, and others; that is, during the next 10 weeks when the Bill is passing through another place. If we do that, posterity may be grateful to us.
Lord Thomson of Monifieth: My Lords, at this time of the evening I shall not follow the noble Lord, Lord Renton, and others who spoke like him. My noble friend Lord McNally gave his views, which follow the traditionally libertarian position of these Benches. When he spoke I thought I was hearing my former colleague, the late Lord Bonham-Carter, on the same subject in the 1990 Bill. However, I shall confine myself to what is the more traditional habit of Third Reading debates after a long Bill, especially since, when I was passing the office of the noble Lord, Lord Graham, on my way to Hansard a few moments ago, I happened to glimpse Nottingham Forest playing Bayern Munich. There is still apparently some good football on terrestrial television and it occurred to me that I could be home watching it instead of participating in the final stages of this Bill. Perhaps tomorrow night I shall have that good fortune.
It is with some pleasure that I view the final passing of this Bill from your Lordships' House and an end to the long days and nights that we have experienced. It has been a long and complex Bill. I join with everybody else in paying tribute to the Minister, the noble Lord, Lord Inglewood, for his stamina, his patience, his good humour and the clarity with which he deployed the Government's case on the Bill. It is a major Bill introduced into your Lordships' House first rather than the other place, as so often happens, and it has been a heavy responsibility.
It is, as has been said, a much better Bill than its predecessor, the 1990 Bill, which was disastrous for independent television. I think we can all say with a modest glow that it is now an even better Bill than it was when it was introduced into your Lordships' House. It is now to be sent to another place, and the fact that it is a better Bill is, first of all--we might as well give ourselves a little pat on the back--due to the persuasiveness of your Lordships on all sides of the House in the arguments that you have put to the Minister. But it is also due to the willingness of the Minister to respond to the arguments and to propose quite a number of improvements to the Bill. However, as has been said in other quarters and from other points of view, there are still further improvements to be made to the Bill which we hope may be made in another place.
I echo the words of the noble Earl, Lord Arran, about the position of the smaller regional companies, about which I feel as strongly as he does. The original clause that the Government put in the Bill on these matters was a good clause and a reassuring clause. The Minister was willing to see it strengthened in various ways. I fully accept what he said in his correspondence--that the sheer pressure of the draftmanship of amendments has prevented the promises he made being fulfilled here on Third Reading. But we shall all of us watch carefully what happens in another place to make sure that the strengthening of the regional safeguards does take place. In particular, I echo what the noble Earl, Lord Arran, said about fulfilling the commitment on the network pricing system and giving the Independent Television Commission the necessary responsibilities and powers to safeguard that.
I am sorry that the noble Viscount, Lord Astor, is not still with us. I hope very much that the question of conditional access for analogue broadcasting, which we came very close to introducing in the Bill, will be followed through in another place. Then there is the matter of unbundling, where we became a little unbundled ourselves earlier this afternoon. I hope very much that it may also be pursued and brought to an effective conclusion when it goes to another place.
Finally, I know I carry the noble Earl, Lord Stockton, with me in the hope that another place will do better, not only on the Channel 4 funding system, but on the whole ITV funding system than we were able to with the Minister this evening.
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