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Lord Whitty: My Lords, I have nothing to add to my previous answers as regards options. In pursuit of the agreement between the Secretary-General and Saddam Hussein, clearly a lot depends on the reports from the UNSCOM inspectorate. Some progress has been made and decisions will have to be made in the light of its final report.
Lord Annan: My Lords, I thank the noble Lord for that fascinating reply. Does he recollect the story of Sir Walter Raleigh at a banquet? His son was on his left-hand side and gave vent to an ill-bred remark, whereupon Sir Walter fetched him an enormous box on the ear. His son, not wishing to strike his father, turned to the person on his left-hand side and boxed his ear, saying, "Box about and it will come to my father anon". I wonder whether that is what is happening in Whitehall, where there is a well-established principle of passing the buck in which, of course, the Department for Culture's file goes to the Ministry of Defence, which then passes it to the Foreign Office. The Foreign Office then passes it back to the Ministry of Defence with comments and then it comes back to the Department for Culture. It may go from there to many of the other departments for which the noble Lord speaks so eloquently and remarkably well in this House. Can he say whether there has been any progress on this matter at all? By "progress" I mean putting another proposal to Westminster City Council to see whether its planning committee will turn that one down as well.
Lord McIntosh of Haringey: My Lords, I am delighted to have a completely new story from the noble Lord in place of the feeble jokes about smoking which we had on the last occasion when this matter was discussed. There has been no passing the buck between departments. As regards central government, the issue is only for the Department for Culture, Media and Sport. Other participants are, of course, the City of Westminster, the Dean of Westminster and Madam Speaker. If no solution is found to the problem which Madam Speaker and the Dean of Westminster are addressing, we would be open to other suggestions.
The Earl of Carlisle: My Lords, does the Minister agree that the most suitable resting place for this fine statue of the great statesman, Sir Walter Raleigh, is Old Palace Yard, where he was executed on 29th October 1618? As your Lordships will know, Old Palace Yard is the area near the Jewel Tower, and between it and Millbank. Failing that suggestion receiving permission, perhaps the noble Lord, with his great desire to see London give its treasures out to the regions, will consider Budleigh Salterton as a better place, because that is where Sir Walter Raleigh was born? Finally, will the noble Lord see placed on the statue the final words of Sir Walter Raleigh,
Lord Annan: My Lords, perhaps I may ask one last question. The statue could be placed at the back of the Foreign Office between the statues of Lord Clive and Lord Mountbatten, but it would be overshadowed by neither. Does the Minister agree that that would be quite a suitable place, in that Sir Walter Raleigh gave the Foreign Office, or its equivalent in those times, a great deal of trouble, so the Foreign Office could now look down on him?
Lord McIntosh of Haringey: My Lords, I am grateful to the noble Lord for that suggestion. It is the case that the statue of Sir Walter Raleigh was planned in the first instance to be erected outside the National Gallery where the statue of King James is at the moment. The problem was that Westminster City Council refused planning permission some 40 years ago. All possible locations will be considered.
Lord Kennet: My Lords, as the spokesman for the Department for Culture in this House, can the noble Lord tell us what a "buck" is in this context? Is it an angulate mammal; a well-dressed young man of the early 19th century, or is it an American dollar?
The particular restrictions on cross-media ownership to protect plurality and diversity are contained in the Broadcasting Act 1990, as revised by the Broadcasting Act 1996. As these amended provisions have been in force for only 16 months the Government have no plans to revise them at present.
Baroness Miller of Hendon: My Lords, I thank the Minister for his reply. Is he aware that in the 25 years since the Act was passed there has been a huge increase in the dissemination of news and views through terrestrial and satellite television, independent radio and the computer? Does he appreciate that Mr. Rupert Murdoch's media empire not only continues to control five national newspapers, but that he has substantially
Lord Haskel: My Lords, I thank the noble Baroness for that simple question! We are aware of the huge increase in media activity. The Broadcasting Act was designed to take care of that. We are also aware of the cross-shareholdings. I seem to remember that the Director General of Fair Trading has had them investigated three times in the past 10 years. Regarding Mr. Murdoch and his relationship with the Prime Minister, I can assure noble Lords that there has been no improper action by the Prime Minister. It is certainly not a matter for the Neill Committee if the Prime Minister takes action in supporting a British company.
Lord Borrie: My Lords, bearing in mind the evident failure of News International to comply with the undertakings to respect editorial freedom and independence which were given in 1981 when The Times was purchased, and the Minister's response which indicated that the Monopolies and Mergers Commission may recommend divestment only if a reference is made to it, will my noble friend ask Her Majesty's Government to refer this matter to the MMC so that we shall know whether or not there was true compliance with what was said in 1981?
Lord Haskel: My Lords, under his current powers, the Director General of Fair Trading has written to the Guardian, Independent and Daily Telegraph newspapers seeking further information in support of their complaints of predatory pricing by The Times. He has asked for a reply by 8th April. On my noble friend's point about the independence of The Times, that is a matter for the independent directors of The Times. Judging from our debate on the Competition Bill, many of them seem to be Members of your Lordships' House.
Lord Jenkins of Putney: My Lords, does my noble friend think that aggressive price-cutting with the purpose of killing an opponent constitutes fair competition? If he does not think that it constitutes fair competition, what is he going to do about it?
Lord Haskel: My Lords, predatory pricing is a matter for legal and economic tests. Pricing is either predatory or it is not. The questions are the same in any market. It is a matter of fact, not a question of weighing the public interest, as the noble Lord seemed to imply. We do not need a special regime for newspapers in the
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