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Lord Jenkin of Roding: My Lords, will the noble Lord give way? I am most grateful to him. It has been represented to me by the British Council, as far as I can see very convincingly, that there is a lacuna in the British law in that laws have been passed, notably on the Continent and, as has been mentioned, in Australia and New Zealand, to outlaw unfair competition in a way that catches the look-alikes, and there is no similar law in this country. That point was made, and I wonder whether the noble Lord the Minister can respond to that.
Lord McIntosh of Haringey: My Lords, since I have given the view of the TRIPS council itself that our law is compatible and does implement these agreements, it would perhaps be better if the noble Lord or his advisers wrote to me so that we can put the forces up against each other and try to resolve the differences, rather than seek to resolve them in this Chamber.
To return to the Bill, I welcome the opportunity to indicate Government sympathy with the overriding objective of reducing levels of counterfeiting and piracy. Indeed, some of the provisions in the Bill are broadly similar to those on which we are currently consulting. But I have to say that there are other parts of the Bill which give rise to serious reservations. For example, it is not acceptable, except in exceptional circumstances, to make it easier to obtain a conviction for a criminal offence by reversing the burden of proof or to make certain activities less likely to occur by criminalising the activities of people such as those who arrange car boot sales but who are not directly involved in dealing with illegal material. I am not unsympathetic to what has been said about car boot sales--I recognise that this is a problem--but I hope that work in the new counterfeiting and piracy forum can help to find solutions, in addition to legislative ones, in the areas covered in the Government's consultation paper. However, as the Bill stands, such measures could seriously affect people's legitimate interests and have human rights implications.
The noble Lord, Lord Jenkin, also raised the issue of look-alike packaging, very vividly, if I may say so. The Government are not convinced that a change in the law to extend brand owners' rights, as against those who sell products in look-alike packaging, is needed. The subject was studied carefully by a committee in the other place which concluded that brand owners have probably not exhausted the possibilities to act using passing-off law. So the law is not clearly deficient and the Government broadly support these conclusions.
The noble Lord, Lord Lyell, referred to the 1988 Act. My understanding is that this Bill does not alter what would be within the scope of the criminal liability provisions in Section 198 of the Copyright, Designs and Patents Act 1988. It merely alters the presumptions when such an offence is to be prosecuted. But perhaps it is more appropriate for the noble Lord, Lord McNally, to answer that question.
The best approach to delivering our shared objective of reducing levels of property crime would be for all interested parties to work with the Government in the areas I have indicated. I know that Dr Kim Howells, the Minister responsible for intellectual property, has already invited the industry body sponsoring the Bill--the Alliance Against Counterfeiting and Piracy--together with the noble Lord, Lord McNally, to meet him to discuss in more detail the issues raised in the Bill. I can assure the noble Lord that the Government's commitment to act where possible to reduce levels of intellectual property crime and work with the industry and others to achieve that is undoubted.
Lord McNally: My Lords, the absence of a dead bat from the Minister's speech convinces me that I am not flogging a dead horse. Towards the end of my earlier speech I used the term "front man". Given the angst in this House and another place about lobbying, perhaps I should explain that I was active in the proceedings on the Competition Bill and, because I was active, the alliance thought that I was a likely lad to approach with this matter. We get into all kinds of concerns about lobbying, but I think it is a perfectly legitimate exercise in lobbying when at a pre-legislative stage an industry or alliance involves a parliamentarian and airs its issues and grievances. This has been an entirely healthy use of the parliamentary process.
As the Minister indicated in his response, and as all involved recognise, a good deal is going on at the moment. Dr Kim Howells is proving to be an active, interested and involved Minister in this area. I therefore have a dilemma. This is a very real problem. I am told that there are 7,000 car boot sales in this country on any weekend in the summer. That is a big issue. On another point, I was given an example of a 16 year-old who is able to run off 30,000 copies of a CD on equipment in his bedroom. The technology is moving to make it very simple to steal copyright. Perhaps I may say, in dealing with the point made by the noble Lord, Lord Lyell, that the Bill is not aimed at the individual consumer who wants to put together a compilation. What the individual does for personal use is one matter; what people do on a large scale for commercial gain is another.
The problem I face is whether, as the noble Lord, Lord Northbrook, urged me, to take the Bill further so that we can get into the nitty-gritty of Committee, or whether I should, as it were, put the Government on test. If a lot of the good things that are happening--the Minister referred to them in his response--do not provide real action by the next Queen's Speech and the next Session of Parliament, I reserve the right to
The noble Lord said: These orders will set the rateable values for companies whose rateable values are prescribed by the Secretary of State. Those companies are the electricity industry, including large energy from waste plants; the water supply industry; BG Transco, which runs the gas pipeline network; Railtrack and London Underground; and large docks and harbours. The chargeable amounts amendment regulations make some technical amendments to the transitional relief scheme for ratepayers generally.
Most properties have their rateable values assessed independently by the Valuation Office Agency. However, since the 1950s, valuation of the former public utilities has proved very difficult, so their rateable values have been prescribed by the Secretary of State. In recent years, following privatisation, conventional rating valuations of these industries have again become possible and our intention is that they should be moved to conventional assessment at the revaluation after this one. For the current revaluation, we are proposing to prescribe values so far as possible assessed by conventional means.
The orders either prescribe actual rateable values or set formulae for reaching rateable values. Railtrack, London Underground, the water supply companies, BG Transco, National Grid and the regional electricity companies all appear on the central rating list held by the Secretary of State. For those companies, the orders set the actual rateable value for 2000-01 and, in most cases, an adjustment factor for future years. Power stations, large energy from waste plants and docks and harbours all appear on local rating lists held by local authorities. For those properties, the orders contain formulae which will calculate the rateable value in each case.
Both actual rateable values and formulae are the result of detailed discussions with the companies or their representatives. Those discussions have been running since last spring and have resulted in the agreement of some of the rateable values before us today. All the companies have been given several opportunities to comment on the valuations. In many cases their points have been accepted and the rateable values have been reduced accordingly. We have based the values on full rating valuations from the Valuation Office Agency so they will also be comparable to rateable values in the normal rating world. We believe the orders are fair in their preparation and fair in their result.
The orders contain over £2 billion of rateable value. Some companies will see increases and others will see reductions, but because the rating multiplier will fall to 41.6 pence in the pound for 2000-01, only ratepayers with an increase in rateable value over 17.5 per cent will see an increase in their bill. Furthermore, the transitional relief scheme will limit increases and reductions in bills. Next year the maximum increases for these companies is 12½ per cent and the maximum reduction is 2½ per cent before allowing for inflation.
The transitional relief scheme has been widely welcomed by business, as my noble friend Lady Farrington of Ribbleton noted in the debate on 9th December on the regulations giving effect to the scheme. Amendments are now required to those regulations to bring them into line with subsequent developments. Those amendments are contained in the Non-Domestic Rating (Chargeable Amounts) (Amendment) (England) Regulations 2000 which are before us today, and which I have moved.
The most important provision is to be found in Regulation 8. It brings the transitional relief scheme into line with changes to the rules on the backdating of successful appeals by ratepayers against their rateable values. We announced these changes on 2nd February following extensive consultation with interested bodies.
Under the new rules, a successful appeal against a new rateable value will have effect from 1st April 2000 only if the appeal is made by 30th September. Where an appeal is made after 30th September 2000 and before 31st March 2001, the alteration to the value in the rating list will not be backdated before 1st October 2000. Appeals made in subsequent financial years will
Regulation 8 provides that where a change in rateable value is backdated to 1st October 2000 or later any adjustment to the transitional relief applying to the rate bill will have effect from the same date. This will ensure that a ratepayer affected by the transitional scheme is in the same position as one who is not. Both will secure any benefits of a reduction in their rateable value from the date of the alteration of the rating list, whether it is 1st April 2000 or later. I beg to move.
Moved, That the draft regulations and orders laid before the House on 29th February and 2nd March be approved [12th Report from the Joint Committee].--(Lord McIntosh of Haringey.)
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