Report and Third Reading
Clause 1: Reports on the fulfilment of the public service remit
Amendment 1
Moved by
1: Clause 1, page 2, line 29, after “(taken together)” insert “comprises a public service for the dissemination of information and for the provision of education and entertainment, which”
Member’s explanatory statement
This amendment reinstates the fundamental Reithian ethos of public service broadcasting (including the important contribution of public service broadcasting to life long learning), the vital role of public service broadcasting in increasing understanding in issues of civic importance, and the relationship between public service broadcasting and a thriving cultural and creative economy.
Baroness Bull Portrait Baroness Bull (CB)
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My Lords, I will also speak to Amendments 2 and 4 in my name. I am grateful to my co-signatories, to other noble Lords around the House and to the Citizens’ Forum for Public Service Media for supporting these amendments, particularly given the pace at which all this has come together. I am also very grateful to the Minister and the Bill team, who found time on very busy days for a helpful meeting earlier this week on these amendments. At the time, we thought we were talking about a discussion we would have in June; it turns out that we are talking about it today, but I am very grateful to him and his team for finding time for that.

These amendments are all about the underpinning ethos, values and distinctive purpose of our PSBs. In tabling them today, I have tried to respect the Government’s intention to streamline and update the overlapping requirements in the 2003 Act, to which the Minister has referred previously. I have tried to do that while addressing the very strong feelings of this House and the sector that, in the process of modernisation, too much of value has been lost.

Amendment 1 would reinstate the principle that public service broadcasting content, taken together, should inform, educate and entertain. This three-legged stool is the foundational principle on which public service broadcasting was built and on which its global and economic success stands. Removing the Reithian principle from the Bill effectively limits the definition of the public service remit to a narrow focus on market failure. It fails to uphold the fundamental principle that PSBs exist to serve society in its broadest sense, with content that is culturally, democratically and socially valuable. Its removal also means that there is no longer any mention of the word “education” in Clause 1, and that the vital role of public service broadcasting in providing content of educative value for citizens across the life-course is no longer protected. Amendment 1 would restore the underpinning philosophy that broadcasting should do more than just reflect. It should help us to imagine other ways of being; to learn about things of which we never expected to know nor care about; and to expand our interests beyond our own lives and concerns and into the lives and concerns of others. It is a principle that has never lost its currency and, in an age when misinformation and disinformation threaten our democratic processes and civic cohesion, it is a principle we cannot afford to lose.

Amendment 2 goes a little further and would clarify what Parliament believes to be content of civic, social and cultural importance, thus protecting the type of content that can so easily be under threat in the face of economic challenge and ruthless competition. Without this clear guidance on what Parliament expects to see in return for public service broadcasting status, and indeed what viewers want, I struggle to see how Ofcom can fulfil its role in holding broadcasters to account. My noble friend Lord Colville championed this point in Committee, and I am grateful to him for working with me on this streamlined amendment. Amendment 2 would also retain the requirement that public service broadcasting should stimulate and support a thriving cultural and creative sector—the very sector on which it depends for its own survival. This modest addition to the Bill enshrines the symbiotic relationship between public service broadcasting and the health and success of the creative industries—a sector that this Government have identified as key to growth and that is currently, unfortunately, at serious risk. I know that the Minister and the Secretary of State are genuinely committed to the future success of this sector. I hope that he can accept this amendment today so that the protections afforded by the 2003 Act remain in place at the time that they are most needed.

Amendment 4, my final amendment, is even more modest. It would add no more than six words requiring public service broadcasters to make available content for children and young people that is educational in nature. I have no problem with the stated ambition of the Bill that content reflect young people’s lives and concerns and help them better understand the world around them, but this is not the same as content that is educational. As I argued in Committee, education is one of the aspects of public service broadcasting that parents value most. Amendment 4 would not require all broadcasters to move into the same space as BBC Bitesize, for example—the specific detail of PSBs’ educational content would still be determined at the level of operating licences—but it would enshrine in legislation the importance of educational content for children and young people in opening up and equalising life chances, which is an aspect of PS broadcasting that licence fee payers deeply care about.

The overall aim of these amendments is to address the concerns so clearly expressed in Committee and by audiences and citizens’ groups that a better balance needs to be found between the intention to streamline and the retention of what makes our public service broadcasting so distinctive. My amendments would reinstate and protect the foundational ethos and core principles and purposes that have long defined our public service broadcasters and underpin their domestic success and the global leadership position they currently enjoy. I very much hope that the Minister might be persuaded by our arguments and be able to accept these amendments at the Dispatch Box. I beg to move.

Baroness Fraser of Craigmaddie Portrait Baroness Fraser of Craigmaddie (Con)
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My Lords, I support Amendments 1, 2 and 4 from the noble Baroness, Lady Bull, and will speak to Amendments 3, 5 and 6 in my name.

I thank the noble Lord, Lord McNally, and the noble Viscount, Lord Colville of Culross, for their support for my Amendment 6 and the Minister for our rushed discussions as we try to pull all this together. My amendment extends the same nations and regions quotas that apply to the BBC to Channel 4—the only other publicly owned public service broadcaster. It includes a two-year timeframe from the passage of the Bill for these quotas to apply.

In Committee the debate on the nations and regions production quotas attracted the largest number of speakers and support from around your Lordships’ House, for which I was very grateful. This amendment is supported by devolved Governments and industry bodies across Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland. In Committee the Minister reassured us that he and his colleagues in DCMS had heard the strength of feeling on this issue from the sector, particularly in relation to Channel 4’s “out of England” quota, which is currently set at 9% of eligible programmes and expenditure. He noted that Channel 4 has said that it would support a managed increase in its programme-making commitments in the other home nations. He also offered a further meeting with Ofcom to discuss this in detail.

I am sorry that this will clearly be one of the casualties of wash-up, but I had hoped that this revised amendment, restricted to Channel 4 and giving it two years to enable a managed increase, might have found favour with all parties. If the Government are not minded to accept my amendment, I trust that Ofcom will take note of the strong feelings expressed that the current Channel 4 quota of 9% just will not wash.

I turn to Amendments 3 and 5, which were previously tabled in Committee by my noble friend Lord Dunlop, who cannot be here today and sends his apologies. The issue is that the responsibility for Gaelic broadcasting is split. The Gaelic Media Service, MG Alba, is established under UK legislation while Ofcom is the arbiter of whether there is sufficient Gaelic language broadcasting. The funding of the Gaelic Media Service was devolved in 1998 to Scottish Ministers, who have, for the past 10 years, frozen funding to MG Alba. The SNP is posing as great supporters of Gaelic and Gaelic broadcasting. However, as ever, the support is all for show. They are all talk and no action.

I have tabled modest amendments to the Bill that would make MG Alba a PSB for the limited purpose of guiding Ofcom in the discharge of its responsibility to assess whether there is, taken together in the round, sufficient broadcasting of minority languages. It would have to look specifically at the sufficiency of Gaelic broadcasting. If it was found that there was insufficient Gaelic broadcasting, the responsibility for responding to this would fall on the BBC—it is happy to accept that as it supports these amendments—MG Alba and, by extension, its funder, the Scottish Government.

These amendments are narrowly focused to be discrete and not upset the overall balance of the Bill. For example, they do not add any new responsibilities regarding prominence requirements. They would, as we head into an election campaign, be a powerful demonstration of a unionist government’s care for all parts of the UK, including its most peripheral in the Highlands and Islands.

Turning to the amendments tabled by the noble Baroness, Lady Bull, which I am pleased to support, the Minister accepted in Committee that we need to strike the right balance with a remit that gets to the heart of what it is to be a public service broadcaster. We must not dilute that. He also stated in Committee that he did not object to any of the specific genres mentioned in the revised Amendment 2, tabled by the noble Baroness. I hope he can accept that not having this in the Bill really would be a glaring omission.

I am grateful to the Minister for his engagement. I am sorry that we have not had the time to explore some of these issues further with him and his team at DCMS, but I support him in his efforts to see that this Bill passes. I thank him and all noble Lords from across the House who have been so supportive of my efforts to ensure that the nations and regions have the best possible Bill.

Viscount Colville of Culross Portrait Viscount Colville of Culross (CB)
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My Lords, I have put my name to Amendments 1 and 2 because it is essential that, in the first clause of this Bill, Parliament gives directed guidance to Ofcom on the content that it would hope to see created by our great broadcasters.

In Committee, the Minister said that the original list of genres and the Reithian mission statement gave “little guidance” to Ofcom on how to focus its assessment of what it is important for public service broadcasters to deliver. Amendment 1 gives a mission statement to provide content that informs and educates viewers. I hope this will ensure that the PSBs do not descend into providing only entertainment and not any information or education.

Amendment 2, which encourages broadcasters to stimulate science and the arts, among other things, is so very important. This is not a list of genres, which the Minister feared, but it does provide a metric for content against which Ofcom can measure the work of our broadcasters.

As other noble Lords have said, we are giving great privilege to broadcasters in this Bill, which I strongly welcome. However, with that must be a burden of responsibility to ensure that they should be distinctive and British. In a world dominated by streamers creating global entertainment, I hope that viewers in this country will be able in future to turn to our PSBs and find content that informs them about subjects that illuminate and bring context to their lives.

I, too, am grateful to the Minister for meeting me and my noble friend Lady Bull to discuss the changes to Clause 1. He was encouraging of the idea of extending the guidance for the public service remit, so I hope that he will support these important amendments.

I have also put my name to Amendment 6 to Clause 14 because I believe that Channel 4 is ready to increase its quota to the nations from the present 9%. The channel’s CEO, Alex Mahon, said as much in her speech to the creative industries last month. I hope that, in the present negotiations for the next licensing round of Channel 4, the Government will give guidance to the channel to increase its quota. It may not be as much as 16%, in line with the BBC, but it needs to be raised from the present 9%.

The television industry in the nations and many regions is collapsing from lack of work. Now is the time for action. I call on the Minister to accept this amendment.

Lord McNally Portrait Lord McNally (LD)
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My Lords, I was happy to add my name to this, because it underlines the benefit of Channel 4. I am always a little worried that, if you leave gaps in behaviour, the bean-counters will take opportunities and the good intentions will take a back seat—so I am not afraid of asking for specifics.

It is important to remember—I hope that Channel 4 remembers this—that, when it was under threat not so very long ago, it was many of the people who have spoken today and previously during the passage of this Bill who were strongest in the belief that Channel 4 brings something special to our broadcasting. For me, one of its most special contributions has been seeking out creatives in the regions and giving them the opportunity to succeed. This amendment underpins that good record of Channel 4 so far and helps to see it into the future.

Baroness Benjamin Portrait Baroness Benjamin (LD)
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My Lords, I rise to speak on Amendment 8 in my name with a heavy heart, in the hope that someone out there is listening. I declare an interest as per the register.

The review amendment that I propose is intended not simply as an exercise in public service media management but as a vital contribution to the future well-being of children and young people in this country—that is, to their sense of worth, their understanding, their place in our society, their appreciation of the many and varied cultures of our society, and, in the final analysis, the future of public service media as a whole.

If millions of children and young people are no longer watching the television that is made for them on PSB channels—it is crafted, curated and considered age-appropriate and relevant to their lives as British kids—how can we hope that they will suddenly, on becoming adults, turn to the BBC for their news or even to other public service providers for information, entertainment or programmes for their children? They will not; they will have lost the habit of believing that powerful content that offers meaning to their lives as British people is provided for them by public service media.

I say this because research by the Children’s Media Foundation has found it to be the case. As Ofcom’s statistics prove, children have migrated away from watching linear television. Many are also unaware of the online platforms provided by the PSB broadcasters that this Bill seeks to bring into public service measurement and regulation.

Your Lordships may feel that young children—their grandchildren, perhaps—are still watching dedicated PSB channels, such as like CBeebies and Milkshake!. However, that is not the case for children over the age of seven. Many parents will tell you that their children are now in their bedrooms using mobile devices, phones and tablets to access their media choices, which opens them up to a world of content offered by YouTube and other providers. On demand and immediate, much of it is loud, frantic and attractive but little of it is made with the care that has been the hallmark of public service television for children since the 1950s.

I spoke to a head teacher just yesterday, who told me that many of the children in her school are speaking with American accents because they are influenced by what they watch on online platforms, which is not age appropriate. Despite the Online Safety Act addressing some of the most outrageous harms in these online spaces, nothing is being done to regulate the spaces for good content, which parents need to feel they can trust. Parents are looking to the Government to reassure them that this is happening. That is what public service media is about: it is there to regulate the broadcasters, to ensure that those who have captured the eyes and minds of British children, while being allowed to make a reasonable return on their investment, will always also give back something of meaning and purpose. That has worked since the 1950s, when commercial television started. It was made to work again when cable and satellite channels increased, and it can be made to work again in a new public service environment, which will definitely include shared video services such as YouTube, TikTok and others that may follow.

My amendment seeks to start a process where we can investigate the real future of public service broadcasting in this country, beyond the confines of the current Bill, through a review. It sets down a marker, like those in so many other countries around the world, that says: we are not prepared to carry on burying our heads in the sand; we will investigate the ways in which these devices can be regulated to offer prominence to public service content; and we will explore the feasibility of levies or incentives, to ensure that they share their advertising revenue with producers of content that is relevant, appropriate and local to the UK, and has the power—which all public service content has—to connect people with the world, rather than disconnect them from it.

All my amendment asks for is that we explore possible futures and are open to change. Change has already arrived for our children and young people, who, in ever greater numbers, are watching and being influenced by inappropriate and harmful videos, rather than material that speaks to their lives in positive ways. It is time for the Government and the entire country to wake up to the fact that the algorithms that push that content on our children are not regulated. They work entirely to increase revenue and profit, most of which is not distributed back to the children’s content producers. They do not take into account age relevance or the social value of what they push—and until we at least begin to discuss the potential for regulation, they will not do so. I simply ask the Minister: is that what we want our children to grow up with?

Supporting this amendment is the start of a new way of thinking about how we care for our children in an increasingly complex media landscape—one that, none the less, can be shaped to offer benefits, hope, joy and inclusion, if we are prepared to consider how that could be achieved. We have lost a generation of children and young people, who are not experiencing the high-quality, uplifting and fulfilling content of past generations. They are now meandering online on paths not beneficial to their mental and social well-being. Once again, I feel that it is my duty to plead with the Government, with tears in my eyes, to put children’s current viewing habits at the forefront of their decision-making process at this late stage, as it is already affecting and will continue to affect their future. As I always say, childhood lasts a lifetime. I hope that the Minister will commit to this review, and I look forward to his response.

Lord Northbrook Portrait Lord Northbrook (Con)
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My Lords, I will speak to Amendment 9 in my name. I apologise to the House and to the Minister for having been alerted to this issue only after Committee. I am grateful for briefings from That’s TV and the Local TV Network.

The Conservative Government introduced local TV in 2012. This allowed locally targeted TV services to be introduced using frequencies freed up by the digital switchover process—the switch-off of analogue TV. There are now 34 local TV services in the UK licensed by Ofcom to broadcast on Freeview. Over three-quarters of these services are for smaller towns or cities of under 500,000 homes. Many of these areas receive little or no regular news about their location from any other television service.

The Bill is intended to secure the future of public service broadcasters by giving them guaranteed access to smart TV sets for their digital players, with the terms of carriage and prominence regulated by Ofcom. Similarly, the Bill grants all Ofcom-licensed radio services guaranteed access to smart speakers such as Alexa. Local TV services are designated as public service channels under the Communications Act 2003. However, local TV services are not included in the definition that the Bill uses for public service channels, which means that Ofcom will have no power to secure carriage and prominence for local TV digital services on smart TV sets.

As Freeview viewing diminishes, this omission represents an existential threat to the future of local TV and risks denying viewers access to news about their own area on TV. The Irish language service TG4 currently has reserved carriage on Freeview in Northern Ireland, to secure the availability of its service across the island of Ireland, in accordance with the Good Friday agreement. However, as drafted, the Bill also fails to protect TG4’s access to internet TV platforms in Northern Ireland, or that of any other potential future PSB duly designated by Parliament under the SI process required by the Communications Act.

A cross-party group of MPs in the other place responded directly to the 2023 DCMS consultation on local TV, supporting the renewal of local TV Freeview licences and calling for local TV to be brought within the provisions of the Bill. Subsequently, on Report in the other place, Sir John Whittingdale tabled his own Amendment 78 to capture local TV. This was not adopted by the Government. However, the Commons Minister implied at that time that she would consider any amendment proposed in the Lords further.

The local TV sector is not asking for guaranteed carriage on smart TV sets today, but the sector is seeking support for a permissive amendment that will allow Ofcom, at its discretion, to secure this carriage for any public service channel defined consistently with the Communications Act 2003. Without an amendment, Ofcom will have no power to require any broadband TV platform to carry local TV services and any potential future public service channels on appropriate terms or with appropriate prominence. Powerful global TV manufacturers will be at liberty to refuse to carry the digital players of these services or to seek to demand premium rents.

This amendment is modest. It simply provides a framework that will allow the 2003 protection to continue into the future. It does not open the floodgates for unreliable news services but it allows Ofcom to make a determination as to whether a service is both willing and able to offer an internet programme service. If it does so determine, the service can be designated and obtain the protections afforded to other providers of public service content under the Bill. It also future-proofs the Bill for other potential public service providers.

With this amendment and cross-party support from the other place, I hope the Minister will take this as a signal of parliamentary interest and will explore options. If that does not happen, local TV news services may not be around for the next media Bill.

Lord Addington Portrait Lord Addington (LD)
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My Lords, I will speak briefly to my Amendment 7. The listed events regime is something that we all agree should happen—for sporting events and events of national importance. This amendment, initially moved by the noble Baroness, Lady Grey-Thompson, is an attempt to make sure that in the current viewing world, they are still relevant in the way that they should be. Not everybody watches these listed events on an ordinary television and, if you do, you may be watching on internet television. One of the joys of this is that you have highlights and replays and can watch out of sync. I would hope in this modern world that those are guaranteed, because if you do not guarantee that these sporting cultural assets, which the nation has said should be available to everyone and there is cross-party consensus on, are made available for free then you are going to take them away.

Also, if there is any danger of these highlights being taken away—when it comes to the Olympics, for example, determined as I am, even I cannot watch 15 events at once, especially not at various times—we must make sure that they are readily available. This is the second go at this. I hope that the Minister can give us a definitive reassurance that we will have this available to us now, in this Bill, because if not, the Government have thrown away, in effect, half the listed events.

Lord Watson of Wyre Forest Portrait Lord Watson of Wyre Forest (Lab)
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My Lords, I rise to support Amendment 1 and to echo some of the concerns raised by the noble Baroness, Lady Benjamin, in her Amendment 8. It is a very great honour to speak to her amendment. I congratulate her on her very important recognition with her BAFTA award last week. She has been a tireless campaigner for children’s television, which is why these two amendments are perhaps the most important that we are discussing today.

To put at the heart of the Bill the notion of public service broadcasting and to modernise it for the digital age should surely be what we are trying to achieve today. I am a member of probably the first generation of comprehensive school children who were taught using terrestrial colour television—creative programmes such as “Words and Pictures” and—dare I say it?—“Play School”. I still remember “magic e” when I write speeches for the Lords. What is sitting here is a failure to realise that we are the generation that lived in information scarcity and our children are swimming in an ocean of information abundance. That notion at the heart of public service broadcasting—good, thorough content creation that is age-appropriate and relevant to the educational journey that we ask our children and their families to go on—is what we should be addressing.

I hope that all Front-Benchers will be able to take the comments made by the movers of those amendments very seriously when they respond to the debate.

Lord Watts Portrait Lord Watts (Lab)
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My Lords, I support Amendment 9 because the quality of news in total has deteriorated over the last few years, and we definitely need more regulation to deal with this.

As far as local TV is concerned, there is a suggestion that it should be put under Ofcom and monitored. In Liverpool, for example, we have a local TV service, but most of the time it is not local at all. It is GM News. Anyone who knows Liverpool knows that it is probably one of the most left-wing cities in the country. To have thrust on it GM News as the major contributor to local TV is very strange indeed. You need some understanding that there needs to be far more local content than there has been in the past and it needs to be regulated.

I have a problem with Ofcom because even if we put it under Ofcom, as the amendment suggests, Ofcom has failed to do its duty on a number of occasions. It is still allowing GM News to put out propaganda, to allow one Tory MP to interview another Tory MP, and we see no action on this.

Lord Brownlow of Shurlock Row Portrait Lord Brownlow of Shurlock Row (Con)
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Does the noble Lord mean GB News? He keeps saying GM News.

Lord Watts Portrait Lord Watts (Lab)
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Correct: GB News. It allows one Tory MP to interview another Tory MP, which is against the rules, as everyone knows, and yet Ofcom sits on the fence because it does not want to take action. It is not surprising because we are dominated by the Conservatives; the chairman and director-general of the BBC are both Tories; the chairman of Ofcom is a Tory; we are overrun by Tories in every area of the media, and we need to address this because there is no balance. This means that people do not stick to the rules that Parliament has laid down. Ofcom has a lot more to answer for and it needs to address some of the shortfalls that it has now if it is going to take on more responsibility.

Lord Russell of Liverpool Portrait Lord Russell of Liverpool (CB)
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My Lords, I will bring the House to the safe harbour of the Cross Benches and take us away from the world of politics—we will have quite enough politics in the next month or so without starting it now.

I spoke in Committee, so I will not say any more, but I endorse everything the noble Baroness, Lady Bull, said. She knows how I feel, the Minister knows how I feel. We were all on an Armed Forces Parliamentary Scheme trip to Bahrain over the weekend so, apart from having lots of hummus, he also heard quite a lot about Reithian principles. I will follow up on what the noble Baroness, Lady Benjamin, said, and I would like to do so, very appropriately with this Minister, on the basis of the alternatives that young children are now exposed to in the online world. The majority of young children will not necessarily benefit from the sort of children’s public sector broadcasting that I suspect most of us are familiar with but have probably not watched a lot of recently, unless we have been babysitting our grandchildren and have nodded off beside them and whatever it is they are listening to.

The reality is that what children are accessing now is very different from what happened before. This is slightly similar to the discussion we had recently about the Government’s new proposed regulations around personal, health and social education in schools. Many children are educated in a way that is pretty much invisible to much of the adult population. I ask the Minister to work very closely with the Department for Education; schools and teachers know very well, having picked it up from them, what their students are exposed to and the degree to which that is good or bad. The Children’s Commissioner should also have a lot of input into trying to understand the firmament of content that children are gaining access to; now is a very important watershed time to do that because every month or year we lose in understanding what children are gaining their knowledge—or lack of knowledge—from, the more time we lose.

Baroness Bonham-Carter of Yarnbury Portrait Baroness Bonham-Carter of Yarnbury (LD)
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I say sorry to the noble Lord, Lord Russell, for going back to being political. But I say to the noble Lord, Lord Watts, that I used to work at the BBC and guess what? Jeremy Paxman and Nick Robinson are also Tories.

Anyway, this is such an important Bill that I will come back to. As I said in Committee, the amendments from the noble Baroness, Lady Bull, ensure that while we both update and future-proof our incredibly invaluable broadcasting media, we do not lose the principles that have made it so unique and internationally renowned. We get, as the noble Baroness, Lady Bull, said, a better balance: in particular, the reinstatement to the Communications Act of the Reithian principles of inform, educate and entertain. At Second Reading, the Minister referred to addressing the concerns of the DCMS Committee report in its pre-legislative scrutiny. The report recommended that the Government retained obligations on PSBs to provide specific genres of content, and the Bill does not. I hope the Minister has considered these concerns as set out in these amendments, which have had support from around the House.

There is a need to enshrine Reithian principles. On the “educate” principle, it is so important for our children today to come together outside the echo chamber that is social media. So many here have supported the matters on which my noble friend Lady Benjamin spoke. With regard to the “entertain” principle, the PSBs, led by the BBC, support and stimulate cultural activity and reflect our nations. They support our creative industries through innovation, skills and training although, as I mentioned in Committee, work still needs to be done on diversity. As for the “inform” principle, PSBs remain essential to UK media, and losing them would leave UK society and democracy worse off.

It is also essential, as the noble Baroness, Lady Fraser, and my noble friend Lord McNally mentioned on Amendment 6, that programmes are commissioned from and made across the UK. In Committee, I argued that the change to Channel 4’s remit potentially undermines this. I did not get much support, but I still stand by that argument.

My noble friend Lord Addington eloquently and persuasively argued to update access to listed events, particularly for clips and excerpts. I return to the words of my noble friend whom I call Baroness Flo—who cannot listen to her and accept what she says and argues for? I point out to the Minister that all she is asking for is a review.

This Bill is much needed. I welcome it. With more time, it could have been even better, but I hope that the Minister agrees to the amendments and makes it as good as possible.

Baroness Thornton Portrait Baroness Thornton (Lab)
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My Lords, as the Minister knows, we are keen that the Bill should be on the statute book, as is the whole of the media world, which has been telling us, even as late as today, “Please, can you make sure that it goes through?” These Benches certainly support that.

It a shame that we have not had more time on the Bill. As the noble Baroness, Lady Bonham-Carter, just said, there is a lot of consensus across the House about how it might have been improved, but I hope that the Minister gives us some comfort about the amendments in this group.

We strongly support the noble Baroness, Lady Bull, in her amendments about Reithian principles and education, as we did recently in Committee. We are also keen to support those amendments which concern children, one of which is my own. We thought that the noble Baroness, Lady Benjamin, made a very powerful point in Committee and even more so today. The request for a review is a modest one and, if the Minister is not able to accept this amendment, I would hope that we can persuade Ofcom that it needs to do this. As the regulator in this world, it needs to take some responsibility and do this review. I therefore hope, along with the noble Baroness, Lady Benjamin, that somebody is listening out there in Ofcom who might do something helpful with this.

I hope that the Minister will address the issues in my amendment, which seeks to ask Ofcom to ensure that minimum standards for age rating are adhered to. That is not to say that it should use a particular method or providers, but there should be some minimum standards, so that parents across the country understand the age ratings for the material that their children are watching. That is very straightforward and simple, and it should be part of Ofcom’s duties.

I think that the noble Lord, Lord Addington, and the whole House agreed with the noble Baroness, Lady Grey-Thompson, about the need to get the issues around listed events sorted out. If the Minister is unable to accept this amendment, he needs to acknowledge that this will have to be dealt with, particularly over the summer, as we move towards the Olympic Games again, because the legislation is not in tune with the broadcasting for the different events and how people wish to access them.
In a way, this group is a distillation of the discussions that we have been having in Committee. We absolutely support the noble Baroness, Lady Fraser. I shall not try to pronounce “Gaelic”. I realise that, because half my family is from Ireland, I was using the Irish pronunciation, for which I apologise. Again, these are modest amendments, which I hope the Minister will be able to give us some comfort with today.
Lord Parkinson of Whitley Bay Portrait The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Department for Culture, Media and Sport (Lord Parkinson of Whitley Bay) (Con)
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My Lords, we are back for Report stage of the Bill rather sooner than we anticipated when we had our Committee debates earlier this week. By necessity and through the process of wash-up, the conversation and debate will be different to the one we would have had, if the Bill had proceeded at a normal pace. I hope that, in my time at the Dispatch Box, I have gained a reputation for listening to the points raised in scrutiny of legislation in your Lordships’ House. I hope that I demonstrated that through the way I steered the Online Safety Act through, which was much improved by amendments from all quarters.

Had we had more time on this, I would have looked forward to debating many of these points in greater detail and discussing them with noble Lords outside the Chamber. I have had the opportunity to do that, albeit in unusual circumstances: my noble friend Lord Attlee and I had a conversation this morning at Westminster tube station, on our way into Parliament and, as the noble Lord, Lord Russell of Liverpool, said, we were discussing aspects of the Bill in the Kingdom of Bahrain earlier this week on our red-eye flight back on Sunday night and Monday morning, which was a perfect way to start what has been a quiet week in Westminster. I am grateful to all noble Lords, as I always am, for the time that they have given in the Chamber and outside to discuss these matters.

We are all pleased to see the noble Lord, Lord McNally, back in his place. I hope that he has had a chance to see the best wishes sent to him yesterday, and we are glad that he is back with us for our debates today.

The noble Baroness, Lady Bull, very kindly began this group by paying tribute to the Bill team. I echo that: they have worked extraordinarily hard since the announcement of the general election to consider these amendments and to prepare. If I may, I single out the Bill manager, Charlotte Brennan, who hot-footed it back from Sunderland this morning. Last night, she was watching a Bruce Springsteen concert and has come back on what was supposed to be a day of leave to aid your Lordships and all of us in our deliberation. Luckily, like the Boss, she was born to run, and she has run back today.

If I may misquote Springsteen again, I think there is a risk in wash-up for this and all Bills that we end up with “All or Nothin’ at All”. The noble Baroness, Lady Thornton, alluded to the clear statements that we have heard from the sector, including the statement made this morning by chief executives from the broadcasting industry about the Bill. As noble Lords may not have had the opportunity to see that yet, I shall quote it in full, because it is worth bearing in mind in our deliberations. They say:

“As leading CEOs from the UK broadcasting industry, we call on politicians across Parliament not to let the opportunity to modernise the rules that govern our sector pass. The Media Bill as currently drafted is widely supported across industry and Parliament itself and has undergone Parliamentary scrutiny in the Select Committee and both Houses of Parliament, having completed second reading and committee stage in both houses. The reforms proposed in the Bill will update key aspects of media legislation for the online TV era, to ensure audiences continue to benefit from the highest quality UK-originated content from the PSBs, and help the UK’s content sector thrive for years to come”.

I know noble Lords have had the opportunity to meet the representatives of the sector and hear how they have worked very hard to come to consensus on matters in this Bill. I hope that we will be able to follow them and give them the Bill they need, for all the important reasons they have set out. For that reason, inevitably, I will upset some noble Lords who, had we proceeded at a different speed, I might have been able to satisfy.

I will start with Amendment 1, from the noble Baroness, Lady Bull, about the importance of retaining the Reithian principles in this legislation. As the noble Baroness said, she, the noble Viscount, Lord Colville, and I had the opportunity to meet earlier this week with officials to talk about this, and we have been considering the issue since she raised it both in Second Reading and on the first day in Committee. I am happy to say that, because that work had already been proceeding and because of the powerful arguments made on all sides of the House at Second Reading and since, I am able to accept her Amendment 1, which will ensure that these principles remain an explicit part of the remit. As we have discussed, they are admirable and important principles, and we want them to remain key to the public service broadcasting ecosystem. I am glad to be able to lend our support to them.

I also thank the noble Baroness, Lady Bull, for her Amendment 4, which seeks to make it clear that children’s programming should be included in educational programming. That goes beyond the current drafting of the Bill, which specifies that children’s programming must reflect

“the lives and concerns of children and young people in the United Kingdom”

and support them

“to understand the world around them”.

I am of course in favour of high-quality programming that supports children to learn and grow, and believe that the public service broadcasters have an important role in providing this.

Children’s programming is an issue that my honourable friend Julia Lopez in another place feels very strongly about, but nobody feels more strongly about it than the noble Baroness, Lady Benjamin, who on this Bill and so many others has spoken passionately about it. She has called for a review of children’s access to public service media. I am pleased to say that there are already requirements on Ofcom to report on children’s television, and legislation already allows for considered assessment of the provision of children’s programming. As the independent regulator, Ofcom is well placed to consider and report on the market more broadly and on how children are accessing content in an increasingly digital world. Ofcom already has a wealth of experience in this area; noble Lords may have seen its yearly Children’s Media Lives report and its Children and Parents: Media Use and Attitudes report. In these reports, Ofcom analyses in depth the way children are accessing content and their attitudes to media today.

Ofcom will continue looking at how children’s media needs are being met in its upcoming review of public service media. Ofcom will review how public service broadcasters are delivering for children, given the significant changes in the media sector, as the noble Baroness set out. This review will draw on Ofcom’s broad range of research to set out what young people are watching, the services they use and value, and the role public service content plays in their lives. Ofcom will also look at who is commissioning the content that appeals to young audiences, and in particular at the incentives on providers to commission it. Ofcom will set out the scope of its public service media review and related programme of work this summer.

As the noble Baroness, Lady Thornton, rightly says, the regulator is listening and is able to act in this area, and I am sure will have heard the strength of opinion raised by the noble Baroness and others in our debate today. Although I am afraid I must disappoint her on her Amendment 8, which I cannot accept, I hope I can reassure her that her words have not fallen on deaf ears—they never do. I know that her work in this important area will continue into the next Parliament and beyond.

I am happy to say that, given that we are returning to the issue in the context of Amendment 4, from the noble Baroness, Lady Bull, I am able to support that amendment, which seeks to add educational programming for children explicitly to the remit. I hope that goes some way—albeit not as far as the noble Baroness, Lady Benjamin, would wish me to go—to address the concerns she set out in her powerful speech. To repeat, I am able to accept Amendments 1 and 4 from the noble Baroness, Lady Bull.

I am afraid that that is where the good news ends. The noble Baroness, Lady Bull, has also tabled Amendment 2, which focuses on public service broadcasters’ provision of programming across a range of specific genres. I know that many in your Lordships’ House feel strongly that the Bill should include a specific list of genres. We heard throughout Second Reading and in Committee a hearty debate on what should be on that list. In the public service remit, we want to set a clear and simple vision for the industry, one that narrows in on exactly what it means to be a public service broadcaster, and we believe that this Bill achieves just that. The Government carefully considered the issue of genres during the design phase of the Bill and as part of its pre-legislative scrutiny. We have added a new subsection (6) in response to that process which makes clear that public service broadcasters must together produce a range of genres in order to fulfil the public service remit.

As I said in Committee, there are two mechanisms for the provision of genres: first, Clause 1 requires Ofcom to report every five years on the extent to which the public service remit is being fulfilled; and, secondly, we have retained the specific obligation of Ofcom in Section 358 of the Communications Act 2003 to collect and report statistics annually on the principal genres which are made available on television and radio services. If the provision of a particular genre was seen to be lacking by Ofcom then the Government of the day could act. New Section 278A of that Act creates a new power, allowing the Secretary of State to create quotas for underserved content areas on Ofcom’s recommendation. This could be used in future to add specific and granular requirements on public service broadcasters with regard to any particular genre. I hope that as I have set out the vital importance of a streamlined public service broadcasting system, and the options to add a requirement about a particular genre at a later date, the noble Baroness will be content not to move Amendment 2.

As several noble Lords have pointed out, Gaelic language broadcasting is crucial for the lives and well-being of Gaelic speakers across Scotland and in the rest of the UK. This Bill already helps to ensure that audiences are able to access content in regional and minority languages, as well as content that is culturally important to communities across these islands, for decades to come. As I have said previously, Clause 1 makes the importance of programmes broadcast in the UK’s regional and minority languages clear in legislation by including it in our new public service remit for television. This provision already covers Gaelic. As such, I am happy to reassure noble Lords that this is covered in the Bill.

I emphasise that the partnership between MG Alba and the BBC is extremely significant for Gaelic language broadcasting, with the BBC already having a specific responsibility in the framework agreement to partner with MG Alba to provide and distribute BBC Alba. On that basis, noble Lords will already have seen that the Government are formally considering the funding of minority language broadcasting, including Gaelic, as part of the BBC funding review which was launched on 7 December. Once the funding review has concluded, I am firmly of the view that then will be the right time to consider the overall future of MG Alba and the ongoing provision of Gaelic language broadcasting. Given the closeness of the link between the BBC and MG Alba, we think these considerations are best done alongside the upcoming review of the BBC’s royal charter, and further details will be set out in due course.

While I am grateful to my noble friends Lady Fraser of Craigmaddie and Lord Dunlop, who have given considerable attention to this and with whom I had the opportunity to begin discussions outside the Chamber on this, I am afraid that I am unable to accept the amendment that has been brought back today.

The growth in film and television production outside London is a great success story, and our public service broadcasters are one of the key drivers of that growth. That is in part due to the quotas placed on them which require them to produce a minimum amount of programmes made outside London. However, we should not overlook the fact that our public service broadcasters have consistently exceeded those quotas, often significantly, and some have even made public commitments to go further than the requirements currently in their licences.

As I set out on the second day in Committee, on Monday, His Majesty’s Government welcome the pledge by the BBC to increase its production expenditure outside our capital to 60% by 2027, and Channel 4’s commitment to spend at least 50% of its main channel commissioning budget outside London. As I also set out on Monday, the regulatory system proposed in this Bill will continue to support the success of the industry in several ways. The Bill is explicit in Clause 1 in its intention to recognise the need for programmes produced outside London through our new public service remit, while the quota system that underpins this mission statement is a clear and well-understood mechanism for holding public service broadcasters to account. The level of these quotas is set by Ofcom, which has broad powers to amend them.

The levels of Channel 4’s regional programme-making quotas, which are the subject of Amendment 6, are being consulted on by Ofcom as part of its consultation on the next Channel 4 licence, which will come into force from 1 January next year. Channel 4 has said that it would support, as my noble friend Lady Fraser said, a managed and carefully considered increase to its programme-making commitments in the home nations. His Majesty’s Government look forward to the outcome of the licence renewal process and seeing how the sector’s concerns have been addressed.

The issue of parliamentary oversight of these quotas has been raised on a number of occasions. It is an important and long-standing aspect of public service broadcasting regulation that detailed regulatory decisions, such as setting the level of specific quotas, should be delegated to Ofcom so that it has the flexibility to balance the different interests of the sector and to respond to trends in the market which, as we have discussed throughout this Bill, can be dynamic and fast-moving. Furthermore, Ofcom’s decisions are subject to parliamentary scrutiny and its senior leaders regularly appear in front of Select Committees to give evidence for the consideration of Members of both Houses.
We want the production sector to continue to thrive. When it comes to our public service broadcaster’s contribution to that goal, we believe that the existing system of regional production quotas remains the best way to continue to drive the growth we have seen in recent years in every part of the UK. For these reasons, I am afraid I am not able to accept my noble friend’s Amendment 6.
The Government recognise the intent behind Amendment 7 from the noble Lord, Lord Addington, to bring digital rights within the scope of the listed events regime. While there is a great deal of support in Parliament for this, it is, as we have covered in our debates, a complex matter. Above all, it is important that the listed events regime maintains the right balance between access for audiences and the commercial freedoms which allow rights holders to reinvest in their sports at every level.
My priority when getting that balance right is the impact on the public. It is of course important that audiences should be able to watch and celebrate major sporting moments; some will be coming up during the general election campaign to distract and delight them. At the same time, broadcasting rights provide essential income to our national governing bodies, which enables them to reinvest in their sports—whether at elite level, grass-roots level or others.
We have seen how technical—I hope—the government amendments are in order simply to ensure that the streamer loophole is closed. Adding digital rights would be a much bigger change, bringing more complexity, and it is not one that we have time to consider now. As I have said previously, moving too quickly to add digital rights without taking the appropriate time to work through the details and consequences, particularly without consulting the industry, would create a real risk to the finely balanced regime overall, so I am not able to accept the noble Lord’s amendment.
My noble friend Lord Northbrook raised an issue which, as he said, he did not raise in Committee. However, I can tell him that a similar amendment was tabled on Report in another place. Both deal with an important issue, which we have considered in some detail: the potential for on-demand applications provided by local television services to be included in the scope of the new online prominence regime.
Because my noble friend was not in Committee, as he said, he will not have heard my offer for officials to discuss this with the trade body responsible for it. I am very happy to extend the invitation to that discussion to him, or to offer to keep him informed about it. I hope with that he will have the reassurance that this has been considered in another place and he will be able not to press his Amendment 9.
Lord Watts Portrait Lord Watts (Lab)
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Can I take it from those comments that the Minister actually believes that there should be far more local content in TV, from regions, towns and cities, and that those these services should not be dominated by GB News in the way they are now? It would be interesting to know if the Minister actually believes in local TV or not. Also, would he like to comment on the fact that—

Lord Watts Portrait Lord Watts (Lab)
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

I am asking a question. Would the Minister like to comment on the fact that the BBC and Ofcom are dominated by card-carrying members of the Tory party? Does he think that is healthy?

Lord Parkinson of Whitley Bay Portrait Lord Parkinson of Whitley Bay (Con)
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

The noble Lord will not be surprised that I do not agree with his final points. But I agree on the importance of local television, which we have heard about in our debates. Local television services continue to play an important role in the wider broadcasting system, adding great value to communities, including during the pandemic as well as in normal times. The Government remain committed to securing the most effective framework for local TV operators going forward. I hope I can reassure him that we very much care about them.

On Amendment 10 tabled by the noble Baroness, Lady Thornton, we are in complete agreement with her on the need to protect children and vulnerable audiences from harmful and inappropriate video on demand content to which they might be exposed. I wish we had more time to continue the discussions on the important matters she raised; my noble friend Lord Bethell and others would have looked forward to that. I reassure noble Lords that the concerns they raised are already well covered by the Bill as drafted. Ofcom will be given extensive powers to set standards, assess video on demand services’ audience protection measures and take action that it considers appropriate. If audiences are concerned, they can complain to Ofcom, and the regulator can, in the most serious cases, set sanctions such as financial penalties or even restrict access to that service in the UK.

The noble Baroness’s amendment looks to set specific standards for services that use age ratings. The Bill already gives Ofcom the power to set these standards and others through the new video on demand code. Ofcom must keep these rules under constant review so that they can be adapted to take into account changes in technology and audience expectations. I am grateful to her for reiterating this important point today, and I hope I can reassure her that the Government are proposing effective and proportionate regulation that covers this and other issues.

With that, I urge noble Lords not to press their amendments—other than the Amendments 1 and 4 tabled by the noble Baroness, Lady Bull, which I am pleased to be able to support.

Baroness Bull Portrait Baroness Bull (CB)
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My Lords, I thank all noble Lords for their support, and the sector organisations that have campaigned and briefed us all. I am disappointed that the Minister is unable to accept Amendment 2, particularly given that it aims to support the sector for which his department is responsible. It is sad to hear him say that, if we were not rushing this through, we would surely have been able to arrive at a consensus, as I really believe that he understands our concerns and would have invested his considerable skills and energies into finding a shared solution.

However, I am delighted that the Government will accept Amendments 1 and 4. This will restore the Reithian principle to its rightful place, and it will enshrine education, for children as well as adults, as integral to public service broadcasting. I thank the Minister for his time on these amendments and for the work I can imagine he has had to put in to get them accepted at the 11th hour. I am very grateful.

Given that this may be my last chance to address the Minister on the record in this role, I take this opportunity to thank him for all he has done in it. I, like others, have found him approachable, fair and effective. He has the best role in government, in some ways, because he works with a sector that is creative, vibrant and endlessly varied. However, it may also be the worst role, because the sector is not shy in saying what it thinks and is creative in getting its message across. But, across the sector, he is widely respected for the hard work he puts in, for his active engagement and for his knowledgeability across such a broad sector.

Again, I am grateful for the concessions that the Minister has been able to make, and I am sorry that the specific circumstances have not allowed us to find alignment on that important Amendment 2. I note what he said about options to investigate performance on specific genres in due course, so my noble friend Lord Colville and I put on notice whoever is in this seat in months to come—we will keep an eye on this. For now, it is a great pleasure to commend Amendment 1 to the House.

Amendment 1 agreed.
Amendments 2 and 3 not moved.
Amendment 4
Moved by
4: Clause 1, page 2, line 44, insert—
“(ia) is of an educational nature, and”Member’s explanatory statement
This amendment clarifies the importance of educational programming for children and young people as distinct from programming that reflects their lives and concerns.
Amendment 4 agreed.
Amendment 5 not moved.
Clause 14: Regional programme-making: Channels 3, 4 and 5
Amendments 6 to 8 not moved.
Clause 28: Prominence on television selection services
Amendment 9 not moved.
Clause 38: Audience protection reviews
Amendment 10 not moved.
Clause 50: Awards of costs
Amendment 11
Moved by
11: Clause 50, page 116, line 26, leave out subsections (2) and (3) and insert—
“(2) Section 40(3) is omitted.”
Earl Attlee Portrait Earl Attlee (Con)
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My Lords, in moving Amendment 11, in my name and that of the noble Baroness, Lady Hollins, I also speak to Amendment 12, which is consequential on Amendment 11. There would be no point in agreeing 11 unless we also agreed Amendment 12, because that is the commencement provision—and actually it was the commencement provision that caused a problem with Section 40 in the first place.

This amendment was debated in Committee only yesterday afternoon. I regret that I have not been able to carefully study any of your Lordships’ speeches, but the arguments in favour of these amendments remain the same. I am grateful for the support of all noble Lords in this matter.

This amendment would retain the carrot component of Section 40—that is, the protection it affords to regulated publishers—while dispensing with the stick element, which could disadvantage unregulated publishers. I have to be honest with the House and say that I understand the dangers that publishers might see with the stick component. Suppose that, at some point in the future, our police got out of control, as if we were in a third-world, failed state; and suppose they managed to corrupt the only approved regulator. The publishers would be stuck, because there would be no escape. They would not be able to go back to where we are now. However, if these amendments were to be accepted, there would be no detriment whatever to the interests of the national or local press, even if they refused to join any form of regulator. If there are any detriments, I am sure the House would be grateful if my noble friend the Minister could say what they are.

The Conservative 2019 manifesto says:

“To support free speech, we will repeal section 40 of the Crime and Courts Act 2014, which seeks to coerce the press”.

These amendments would achieve that objective. A newspaper signed up to IPSO would no longer be adversely affected by Section 40; it would just have to hope and pray that the courts would protect it from rich and powerful litigators. However, if a newspaper signs up to an approved regulator, it will be protected, because any person trying to sue it would pay all the court costs, win or lose. So free speech would be protected and not harmed.

My noble friend the Minister says that it is government policy not to incentivise membership of one regulator over another, even if one is superior. So can my noble friend explain why, in data protection and other areas of legislation, the editors’ code used by IPSO is recognised in statute over and above other editorial codes? Is it not the case that the Government give special treatment, not on the basis of which regulator offers better protection to the public but on the basis of which regulator represents a national newspaper whose support they crave?

The truth of the matter is that the opponents of the Leveson reforms want the only approved regulator to wither on the vine by denying it the benefits of Section 40, as envisaged by the Leveson reforms. I beg to move.

Baroness Hollins Portrait Baroness Hollins (CB)
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My Lords, I am grateful to the noble Earl, Lord Attlee, for moving Amendment 11 and for his brave and wise speech. I hope that the Minister has thought again overnight and will accept Amendments 11 and 12, which have a lot of support within the House, without our needing to divide. What message does it send to voters when a clause that has been heavily debated and voted on, and to which amendments have attracted cross-party support, is persisted with by the Government under an expedited process?

I and other noble Lords do not think that this is an appropriate way of conducting the business of this House. Our democratic system, with all its checks and balances, is sacred, and I urge the Government to respect it and either withdraw this clause or agree to Amendments 11 and 12, which propose a finely balanced compromise between competing views.

At the heart of this debate is Section 40, a measure which would protect regulated newspapers from costs in court cases against them and protect ordinary people from costs in bringing claims against unregulated newspapers. The principle of access to justice for ordinary people against press abuse, and the freedom of regulated and ethical newspapers to hold wrongdoers to account without fear of expensive litigation, is common sense. That is why we and press freedom advocates around the world, including the National Union of Journalists and the international free speech organisation Article 19, support the Leveson system. But it seems that the Government do not share these views and are seeking to repeal Section 40 in full. That is why the noble Earl, Lord Attlee, and I have proposed the amendments today. They are a compromise, which would retain the protections of Section 40 while allowing that part of it to which national newspapers object to be repealed.
This is the perfect compromise for the Government: the press may remain totally unaccountable without any costs or financial disadvantage, but we in your Lordships’ House would show our support for the principles of high standards in an ethical media that would put the public first and create an incentive for newspapers to do the right thing and join a regulator that would protect the public. The press and the Government have no good reason to oppose it.
I fear that some noble Lords may have missed some of my speech yesterday, because of breaking news about a general election. Your Lordships’ House now has access to the extraordinary intervention from Sir Brian Leveson in a letter to me. His letter makes it crystal clear that the Leveson system does not constitute state regulation in any way, shape or form. His recommendations do not pose any financial risk to newspapers. Despite assertions to the contrary in Committee, Sir Brian’s letter explains why his proposals are as relevant today as they have ever been.
We have an opportunity today to do what this House does best: find a compromise between those in favour of press freedom and high standards in the press on the one hand, and those firmly opposed to introducing any meaningful accountability for the industry on the other. I address the Front Benches and say to them that the campaign for the general election has begun. The public’s eyes are on us. They recognise integrity and they recognise cowardice.
This amendment was first tabled by a former Conservative Minister in the other place. Action on this issue has the support of noble Lords on that side of your Lordships’ House. It was supported by the Opposition on Report in the other place and in debates in this House. The Liberal Democrats have been consistent and tenacious in their support of this issue. Now is the time for courage and to stand up for what is right; for respect for the conventions of this House; for the interests of the bereaved and victims of crime targeted by the press; and for journalists who want to do the right thing.
After today’s debate, we may not get the gushing write-up in a national newspaper that some may be hoping for, but there are thousands of people who have experienced the worst kinds of press abuse and are relying on us to speak up for them and to show some courage. I think of my own family and all those who have experienced press wrongdoing. We owe it to them to make progress today.
Lord Lipsey Portrait Lord Lipsey (Lab)
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My Lords, my name appears on all three amendments in this group and therefore it is very tempting to make a long speech on all of them. But I will not do that; I am going to confine myself to the absolutely ghastly procedural and constitutional hole we are in.

I think that for a lot of this stuff to go through wash-up is a breach of the constitution and the understanding of the constitution that we all hold firm to. If this is not looked at in future, we will get into this hot water yet again and burn our toes.

I will take a couple of points, although I could say a number of things. One of the reasons why this House always accedes to the will of the elected House is that it is an elected House. One of the reasons why a manifesto pledge is regarded as game over is that it is the clearest reflection of the will of the people as expressed at the last general election. But we are about to have another general election. The people could have been given another chance to express a view on whatever is in the Conservative, Labour and Lib Dem manifestos, but instead this tag-end of a Government—going down their smoke-rising hole and out of the people’s memory, thank goodness—are still able to make decisions on this. I really am sorry that my noble friend Lord Bassam, who knows what a great admirer of his I am, and the Labour Party as a concerted whole have not put up more of a fight on this.

Secondly, this was avoided in one of the earlier speeches, but wash-up is meant to be about consensus. The Minister said that he would discuss this with the Opposition, but in this House we have more than one opposition. We also have the Liberal Democrat opposition, who take a wholly different view on Leveson and Clause 50 from the Opposition or the Tory party. When going through a procedure designed to achieve consensus, is it fair to exclude from that process an extremely important group of people whose knowledge and experience in this field is as great as that of any other party in the House? I do not find that procedure acceptable.

Some of the consequences of this are becoming known to us as we go through the Bill this afternoon. The Minister, with an apparently serious face, said: “We might have been able to sort these things out, Lady Bull, if only we had had more time”. I do not know what conversations he has had with the noble Baroness over the last few days, but I hope they have been extensive. It is because this thing has been rushed through and wash-up is being used as a cover. I do not know why the Whip is making noises. He tried to shut somebody else up before, but he will not shut me up.

Lord Watts Portrait Lord Watts (Lab)
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Whips should be seen and not heard.

Lord Lipsey Portrait Lord Lipsey (Lab)
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That is right. He has succeeded; I have lost my thread.

If we had had more time or if the phrase “extended consensus” had been interpreted more widely, these matters could have been dealt with. In the end, we will end up with an unnecessarily flawed Bill and a subject to which an incoming Government—as long as they are not a Conservative one—will have to devote their time. We could have wrapped all this up today and adopted the compromise put forward by the noble Baroness, Lady Hollins. If necessary, we could even now improve that compromise by amending it at Third Reading. But we will not do so. The will is not there.

We are now seeing an elected dictatorship of two parties—my own, alas, and the Conservative Party—pushing through things that have not achieved consensus support simply, as I explained at Second Reading, for political advantage. This is a sad day not only for press regulation but for Britain’s democracy.

Baroness Bennett of Manor Castle Portrait Baroness Bennett of Manor Castle (GP)
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My Lords, I rise briefly to associate the Green Party with the remarks of both the noble Earl, Lord Attlee, and the noble Baroness, Lady Hollins. The noble Baroness spoke up very clearly for the people with very little power who are being crushed by those with great power—the oligarchic press and media system, to which I have referred in previous speeches.

To pick up a point made by the noble Lord, Lord Lipsey, I often hear the phrase, “We are a self-governing House” said with great pride. “We are not ruled by the usual channels”—or at least we are not supposed to be. They do not represent large parts of your Lordships’ House.

Lord McNally Portrait Lord McNally (LD)
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My Lords, I thank the Minister and Members from all parts of the House for their good wishes about my health. I went into hospital yesterday morning for a procedure on a long-standing back complaint. It went very well and as I left, the doctor said, “Oh, you might find a bit of discomfort once the painkillers wear off”. Always listen to your doctor. I was really touched to read today’s Hansard. There were good wishes that you usually have to die to get in this House. I feel rather like Tom Sawyer in that respect.

The noble Lord, Lord Lipsey, is right—I am only going to speak to the amendments to Clause 50—as the notes issued by the House on the wash-up period state:

“The wash-up period allows a Government to enact essential or non-controversial legislation”.

Whatever else this is, Clause 50 is neither of those things. We all know it has been put into the Bill like a sore thumb, to fix a deal between the Conservative Party and the major newspaper proprietors. That is the wicked world in which we live.

Having served in government and in this House for well over 30 years, I cannot get excited about wash-up. George Woodcock, the great trade union leader of the early 1960s, said that good trade unionism is a series of squalid compromises; so is wash-up, I am afraid. I understand what we are doing today. If we did not have this rather crude end to a Parliament, even a general election period of six weeks would be eaten up by both Houses debating Bills. It is not the end of the world; there is another Parliament coming.

I can see that the noble Lord, Lord Black, is in his place. Like Don Quixote, he is ready to charge at the windmills of state control of the press. That has never been any part of Section 40, as the noble Baroness, Lady Hollins, explained in quoting the expert on the situation, Lord Leveson. I was the Minister in the Ministry of Justice who had responsibility for trying to put forward a solution to the problem of how you square the circle of press freedom and the power of big money in the press. I find it ironic that, at the end of this Parliament, we are being asked simultaneously to help the titans of the press to escape the bullying of SLAPPs—that is the use of big money to curb freedom—and at the same time those same press bodies are resisting attempts to give the ordinary citizen the protection from big-money press that they are asking for.

We know how it works in trying to curb that in so many individual cases, so I am really pleased that a number of my colleagues have put down amendments that could and should have been a way forward, but I do not see that in anything that the noble Lord, Lord Black, has said recently, or any of the other supporters. I do not see the noble Lords, Lord Faulks, Lord Black or Lord Hunt, as in any way on the other side of the fence. We are all in favour of press freedom; I resent very much the idea that those of us who have sought to find that balance, over many years, are still waiting for a move from the press itself.
In an earlier debate, I quoted David Mellor: it is nearly 30 years since warned the press that they were
“drinking in the last-chance saloon”
yet they are still there. All that I can say to my friends on the other side, particularly the noble Lord, Lord Black, is that I know how wash-up works. We are probably not going to win, even if we forced any of the compromises, because that is the sordid compromise to which the two sides have to come to get the business over. But it is not the end, because we all know that there will be another scandal by a press that still feels that it is immune from any controls.
I just wish that those on the other side can see genuine attempts on all sides of the House to find a way forward on this, and that there will come a time when they regret not picking up the offers that were on the table. As I say, the public outside do not see this as an attack on press freedom; they see it as an attempt to bring a section of our public life within the realms of decency, and that fight will go on.
Lord Pannick Portrait Lord Pannick (CB)
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My Lords, when a judge gives a dissenting judgment, he or she often says that they have the misfortune to disagree with the other judgments. I have the misfortune to disagree with the observations made by all previous speakers in this debate. I declare my interest: I occasionally contribute to the press, as do many other noble Lords, and have acted as counsel for various media organisations, and indeed people suing the press, including in proceedings concerned with Section 40.

I can see no conceivable justification for giving special legal protection in relation to those publications which are signed up to the authorised regulator. Section 40 has not been implemented since 2013; it has long been effectively dead and it is high time for it to receive a decent burial. In the last 10 years-plus, we have seen the unauthorised Independent Press Standards Organisation act with independence, impartiality and good judgment to rule on complaints about press conduct. It has done so since 2020, since when it has been chaired by my noble friend Lord Faulks. Under his distinguished chairmanship, it has produced 800-plus rulings on thousands of complaints. Those 800-plus rulings are all contained on the website; they are entirely transparent.

What I find astonishing in this debate is that none of the speakers—who are so wedded to there being a protected, authorised organisation—has made any criticism whatever of any of the rulings made by the unauthorised IPSO. Your Lordships may know that the Times, the Telegraph and the Spectator have all complained that IPSO has been too tough on the press. If there are criticisms of IPSO, I would have expected to hear them today, but I have not. The noble Baroness, Lady Hollins, spoke of the need for high standards of ethical media regulation, but that is what we have from IPSO.

I am very delighted to see the noble Lord, Lord McNally, back in his place and that he is restored to good health; I wish him well. He spoke of the influence of big money. There is an independent regulator, which is under the noble Lord, Lord Faulks; his predecessor was a very distinguished, independent Court of Appeal judge, Sir Alan Moses, whom no one could accuse of being in anyone’s pocket. It is preposterous to suggest that there is no independent press regulation other than the authorised body.

The authorised body is Impress. I am sure that it has greatly impressed its new member, the organisation Responsible Reptile Keeping. Many, including the vast majority of the press, are not impressed by it to the extent that they wish to be regulated by it—and that is entirely their choice. It is wrong in principle that we should maintain any legislation that provides any advantage to anyone in relation to that body. The noble Earl wishes to intervene.

Earl Attlee Portrait Earl Attlee (Con)
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My Lords, I am extremely grateful to the noble Lord for giving way; I love debating this subject with him. I made a speech in the House of Lords in which I said that I would not name a bank, because it had been extremely helpful to me. That was reported in a newspaper, which said exactly the opposite: it named the bank and quoted all the horrible things that I had said about it. Those comments were actually from a position paper that I wrote some time before I made the speech. Can the noble Lord explain why, when I complained to IPSO, my complaint online disappeared into the ether? When I asked newspapers to publish a very nice letter from me, saying that there had been some misunderstanding and asking for the opportunity to correct the record, none of them agreed to publish it and my email just disappeared. That was because they knew that IPSO would have no effect.

Lord Pannick Portrait Lord Pannick (CB)
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The noble Earl knows very well indeed that I cannot possibly have any knowledge of the circumstances of his complaint. I am sure that if the noble Earl takes up the matter with the noble Lord, Lord Faulks, he will—as Ministers say—write to the noble Earl with an explanation. I am sure the noble Lord, Lord Faulks, will be very happy to place a copy in the Library of the House, but I cannot answer that.

Let us be realistic: we all have complaints about the press. Sometimes, they say nasty things about me; I am not as important as the noble Earl, so it is much rarer, but we are all aggrieved by the press. The fact that the press sometimes—maybe often—say foolish, unjustified things is the price of press freedom. There needs to be a regulator. However, there does not need to be an authorised regulator that has special protection, unless he and other noble Lords say that the unauthorised regulator does not do its job—but that is not the case.

Lord Watts Portrait Lord Watts (Lab)
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If the noble Lord had been in the House yesterday, he would have heard my account of a woman whose daughter was run over in a hit-and-run accident. The Mail sent a reporter down to the scene of the crime, secured the CCTV camera footage and put the link to that story in its paper. She complained but, after six months, she had made no progress whatever. When she said she was stressed out, she was told by this independent regulator that that, if she was stressed out, perhaps she should drop the case. Is that the sort of justice the noble Lord is looking for?

Lord Pannick Portrait Lord Pannick (CB)
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Again, the House cannot possibly know all the circumstances. I very much doubt it, but IPSO may have made a mistake. I am sure that there are also many complaints to the authorised regulator that do not result in the complete satisfaction of the person who is complaining. It is absurd to suggest that that is so. We have to look, do we not, at the structure—at whether there is an independent, non-authorised regulator? I do not for a moment suggest that there are not people—I am sure there are—who have complaints about the press, and perhaps even complaints about IPSO. However, there is a system, and it is a perfectly proper, effective system under independent management. In those circumstances, it cannot possibly be right that we give special legislative protection to an authorised regulator.

Lord Davies of Brixton Portrait Lord Davies of Brixton (Lab)
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I am listening carefully to what the noble Lord is saying. Is he not amply illustrating the point that this provision is highly controversial? That is the real point of discussion in this debate, that such controversial matters should not be dealt with during wash-up.

Lord Pannick Portrait Lord Pannick (CB)
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The reality of political life—the noble Lord knows this as much as I do—is that wash-up is a very difficult constitutional concept. However, that is what we have, and it is the only way of getting business through. Since the noble Lord asks me, I do not think this is contentious at all. I thought the provision of Section 40 when it was enacted was a disgrace.

Lord Pannick Portrait Lord Pannick (CB)
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Wait a minute. I have continued to consider so since, and my views are confirmed by the fact that we have all managed perfectly well for 10 years.

Lord Pannick Portrait Lord Pannick (CB)
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Give me a moment. I said I would give way, but I would like to finish my point. If the noble Baroness does not mind, I would like to finish my answer to the noble Lord and then I will happily give way to her.

Therefore I do not consider this contentious, because there is no conceivable justification for maintaining any part of Section 40. I happily give way.

Baroness Bennett of Manor Castle Portrait Baroness Bennett of Manor Castle (GP)
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I thank the noble Lord for giving way, and I suggest that perhaps his tone is testimony to the degree of contention in your Lordships’ Chamber at this moment. I also contest the argument he makes that lots of examples have not been given. As was pointed out, examples were given yesterday in Committee, but your Lordships’ House is also very aware of the wash-up procedure and the need for speed, and people’s desire to progress. However, just to give the noble Lord one example, the NUJ—the National Union of Journalists—ethics and disabled members councils have written to IPSO complaining about its failure to address the way in which disabled people are covered by the media organisations that it is supposed to regulate, and asking for action. I have seen no sign of action. That is just one example, since the noble Lord asked for them.

Lord Pannick Portrait Lord Pannick (CB)
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That is a very sensitive subject.

Lord Pannick Portrait Lord Pannick (CB)
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No—please let me answer the noble Baroness. The treatment of disabled people is a very contentious issue on which strong views are held, and I am not going to get into that debate. The noble Baroness also complains about my tone. I am sorry she complains about it. What I am seeking to do—I hope very properly, because we are all grown-ups here—is to deal with the substance of the arguments that have been put in favour of these amendments.

Lord McNally Portrait Lord McNally (LD)
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I had misjudged this debate. I thought that the noble Lord, Lord Black, would be the Don Quixote—I did not imagine that he would be the Sancho Panza. Has he ever heard of the term used in the United States, “a sweetheart union”? That is what IPSO is. It is owned by, financed by and dependent on the people it is supposed to regulate. We are always looking to get IPSO out of the clutches of those it is supposed to regulate—maybe that will be the greatest tribute to the noble Lord, Lord Faulks, during his chairmanship. Then we might believe the silken words that the noble Lord, a very experienced advocate, has been saying to us.

Lord Pannick Portrait Lord Pannick (CB)
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The noble Lord may recall, and the noble Lord, Lord Watson, will certainly recall, that Impress, the authorised regulator, was funded for a long time by the late Mr Max Mosley, who had very strong views about press regulation.

Earl Attlee Portrait Earl Attlee (Con)
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The noble Lord lost his case on that.

Lord Watson of Wyre Forest Portrait Lord Watson of Wyre Forest (Lab)
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My Lords, as a relatively new Member of this House, I rise with great trepidation, following the noble Lord, Lord Pannick. As a new Member, I have noticed that every time I enter the Chamber with one view, when I hear his intellectually muscular contributions and his laser-beam legal brain, I usually end up leaving the Chamber with a different view. I do not think that is going to happen today.

I say to the noble Lord that criticisms were made of IPSO made in Committee yesterday. He may not think that they were legitimate or hold water, but they were closely felt. I am not going to criticise IPSO again in this debate, except possibly to add, as I tried to yesterday, to the noble Lord, Lord Faulks, that my criticisms of IPSO are about the institutional structure and the governance arrangements. They are nothing to do with the professionalism of the staff, whom I only hear excellent things about when they deal with individual cases. Also, as a former colleague of Sir Bill Jeffrey, I understand that he is as intellectually muscular as the noble Lord, Lord Pannick, and I am sure that he did a very independent review of IPSO.

My concerns today are why now, and why in this debate. On the circumstances that led to the creation of Section 40 in 2013, we had numerous Select Committee inquiries, and we had several criminal inquiries. We had independent journalism investigating criminal wrongdoing, and we had a judge-led public inquiry that did quite an unusual thing. It united both Houses and all political parties to draw a line in the sand and say, “We’re going to do something completely different—we’re going to find a way of holding tabloid media to account”. What we have been asked to do today, nearly nine years later, is to repeal Section 40 because we are being told that we have a legal framework and an independent set of governance rules, which means that we no longer need the Leveson recommendations.

What we are not being told is what we know now that we did not know in 2013 when, with great urgency because there was great public concern, we decided that we needed to act. We actually know that there was much more criminal wrongdoing, that it lasted longer, and that it was not for just a few years but nearly a decade. We also know that Parliament was misled, that members of the DCMS Select Committee who were investigating criminal phone hacking were the subject of intense media criticism—some covertly surveilled by private investigators working for News International. We know that they were lied to. The “one rogue reporter” defence was held for numerous years, but there was actually a corporate consciousness that this was not true in 2005. We also know, because we have seen the criminal case and conviction of Mazher Mahmood, the “fake sheikh” in 2016, that people were framed. Celebrities and people in the public eye were accused of crimes and set up to sell stories. As far as I can see, there has been very little contrition from the newspaper groups that were responsible for that.

I really could go on and on about the wrongdoing, the deceit, the lies, the criminal behaviour and the constant intimidation, but I truly think that everyone, wherever they stand in this debate, already knows about those.

Earlier, the Minister cited Bruce Springsteen, and I was very disappointed when he did that because I was supposed to have lunch with him today. I decided it was better to stay here to try to convince him, at this 11th hour, of the errors of his ways. I know he may be “born to run”, but I feel like “we are dancing in the dark”, as we have so often in this debate. I want to convince him of the merits of these three amendments in this little basket of discussions, and—who knows?—we may even have “glory days” together, whatever the outcome of the general election.

There are some principal reasons why this clause should be opposed. First, there is a convention that controversial policy should not be rushed through in the wash-up. We have done it before and came to regret it—I mention the Gambling Act 2005.

Secondly, when it comes to media reform, we must be incredibly transparent. The public need to understand that, if we are going to concede to media barons—and let us not deny that this is what this represents—we need to be seen to do the right thing. In trying to railroad all these amendments through in an afternoon, on the day after the announcement of a general election, you cannot make the case that this is anything other than a venal deal.

Thirdly, perhaps more importantly, I believe very strongly that, wherever you sit on the ideological spectrum, whenever we talk about regulation—this is a highly regulated market—people always tell me that when you regulate things you have to be worried about the consequences of your decisions because they are very hard to map out. We appear to be dropping the creation of a new regulator for that reason when it comes to football, and I do not understand why we are interfering with a regulated market in wash-up.

There are some principal reasons why it is time that we took a pause, and what we have is either a concession that could unite us or an argument that says let us not deal with Clause 50 in the wash-up of a general election; let us pause and come back to it, whoever wins that election.

Baroness Bonham-Carter of Yarnbury Portrait Baroness Bonham-Carter of Yarnbury (LD)
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We on these Benches are in favour of these amendments and think we should proceed now.

Lord Davies of Brixton Portrait Lord Davies of Brixton (Lab)
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I would like to add something to the constitutional points which were made by my noble friend Lord Lipsey. The appropriateness of dealing with this issue in wash-up is clearly in contention. The noble Lord, Lord Hunt of Wirral, said yesterday that the abolition of Section 40 is a clear commitment of the 2019 Conservative Party manifesto. I am afraid it is not clear: the sentence starts by saying that but it then sets conditions. It provides additional text that confuses the issue, and raises issues which were dealt with in yesterday’s debate. I have read yesterday’s debate and clearly questions have been raised about the accuracy of the information in that particular quote from the manifesto—I see the Minister disagrees. Claiming that it is clear is incorrect.

The second issue arises from the Salisbury convention about manifesto commitments. It is quite clear that this cannot be an essential commitment because the Government have had more than four years to deal with the matter, and they failed to do so. Bringing it up in the wash-up period is an insult to this House and an exploitation of the arrangements which have been made.

Baroness Fox of Buckley Portrait Baroness Fox of Buckley (Non-Afl)
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My Lords, I want only to reflect slightly on some of the comments that have been made about the tone of the debate, and in particular the attack against the noble Lord, Lord Pannick. I have been shocked by the tone of the debate against the points of noble Lord, Lord Pannick. The argument seems to be that this is a Tory conspiracy theory, that the Tories are in bed with the press barons, and that there is all sorts of skulduggery going on. I am genuinely shocked that this is being allowed to pass. I want to at least mention that there are some of us who worry about an authorised regulator, and the politicisation of regulation, who are not in bed with press barons. I spend most of my time reading newspapers that write rubbish about me, so I am not keen on press barons—let me put it that way. I also happen to believe in media independence and freedom, which is an important point.

I want the Bill to get on and pass, but, first, there was an earlier discussion about local TV news channels. For the sake of the public and accuracy, one noble Lord sitting close to me said that GM News—he meant GB News—is constantly played on local TV news channels. It is not GB News; it is TalkTV that is played on all those channels, including in Liverpool. I get it and watch it, and that is what is played.

Secondly, the accusation was made that Ofcom, because it is run by evil Tories, is not doing anything about GB News and the way that it presents itself. It is worth reading the papers and the press on this, because then we would all know that Ofcom is in fact accused of overregulating GB News for exactly the things that the noble Lord mentioned it was ignoring—to such an extent that GB News is beginning a formal legal process against Ofcom, which it considers to be overly political in its involvement in the editorial independence of GB News.

I make these statements of factual accuracy because what is at stake is not which political party you are in. We talked about Reithian principles before, but has anyone explored Reith’s politics at any point? He was not a socialist or a Lib Dem, but I agree that Reithian principles matter. I do not care who is arguing for press freedom or who is trying to overturn Section 40. I do not think that it is a conspiracy to establish an independent regulator for the media, which is not a threat to the British public. The threat to the British public is a politicised, misinformed, ill-informed discussion that tries to suggest that the only people who care about press freedom are working with press barons. That is nonsense.

Lord Bassam of Brighton Portrait Lord Bassam of Brighton (Lab)
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My Lords, I think the convention of the House is that, on Report, a noble Lord has only one bite of the cherry.

This has been a long debate and we had a long debate yesterday. I listened to all sides of the argument and have set out the Labour Party’s viewpoint on the current situation. There is one argument with which I strongly agree, and that is that it is unfortunate that we are having this debate, on this Bill, at the end of a Parliament. It is a great shame, because this part of the Bill does not really sit easily with the rest of it, which is primarily about broadcast and audio media. We should have stuck to that subject matter.

With that said, we do not support the amendments that have been tabled by my noble friends behind me, and we are unable to give them the backing they wish. We now have a settled position and things have moved on since Leveson. I do not disagree with some of Leveson’s conclusions, but I think that the issue has moved forward. I do not think that sufficient weight and seriousness were paid to the arguments that are being made that we need to look closely at the press and examine how it works. I heard the passion of the noble Baroness, Lady Hollins, and of my noble friend Lord Watts, and I understand their concerns, but I do not think that this is the best way for us to continue to approach matters. That is the Labour Party’s position, and we will not support our colleagues if they push this to a vote. We are content for the Government to conclude business on this group, which we hope will enable us to make progress on the Bill.

Lord Parkinson of Whitley Bay Portrait Lord Parkinson of Whitley Bay (Con)
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My Lords, as the noble Lord, Lord Bassam, said, this has been a long debate, as our debate yesterday was, but I am not sure that it has shed much light for us to be blinded by. The noble Lord, Lord Watson of Wyre Forest, inadvertently put it rather well when he said that this was not a debate that was likely to change anyone’s mind. This reflects an old debate, one which began well over a decade ago and on which few minds have shifted in the intervening years. We are focused on a narrow aspect of it: to repeal a provision that has never been enacted, languishes obsolescent on the statute book and, even in that dormant state, causes great concern to our free press, one of the things on which we pride ourselves in this nation. That is why it is essential that this provision is removed and why this is not a controversial debate, although some noble Lords opposite continue to disagree with it.

This matter was covered explicitly in the last two manifestos on which the Government were elected. In 2017 and 2019, we said that
“we will repeal section 40 of the Crime and Courts Act”.
The noble Lord, Lord Watson of Wyre Forest, was deputy leader of his party in both elections, and I think that the noble Baroness, Lady Bennett of Manor Castle, was a candidate in them. I am glad that the noble Lord, Lord Davies of Brixton, has been an assiduous reader of our manifesto, but I disagree with him in his attempt to suggest that there is anything other than clarity in our commitment to repeal Section 40 of the Crime and Courts Act.
I will say a little about the amendments tabled today, because they deserve the courtesy of a reply. My noble friend Lord Attlee asked what the detriments are of Section 40 of the Crime and Courts Act and what those of the amendment before your Lordships’ House would be. In practice it would incentivise membership of Impress, as the sole UK regulator that has sought approval by the Press Recognition Panel. That would be likely to lead to a chilling effect on publishers that choose not to join Impress, which, as noble Lords know, is a great number of publishers indeed: not a single one of our national newspapers, which disagree with each other on many things and have a variety of political views between them, has chosen to join it. His Majesty’s Government are committed to protecting media freedom and the invaluable role of a free press in our society and our democracy. As part of this, we are committed to independent self-regulation of the press, and that extends to endorsing regulators of which they should become members. Incentivising a publisher to join a specific regulator is not compatible with protecting independent self-regulation of the press in the UK.
That is not just about government policy and nor, dare I say it—as the noble Lord, Lord McNally, tried to suggest—about partisan advantage. The News Media Association, Reporters Without Borders, the Society of Editors, English PEN and many other important voices on media freedom have described this as crucial legislation and said:
“Repealing Section 40 will go a long way towards strengthening the UK’s reputation as a global champion for freedom of speech”.
More broadly, as I set out at the outset of this Report stage, leading chief executives from the broadcasting industry have impressed on us
“not to let the opportunity to modernise the rules that govern our sector pass”
and highlighted the broad support across the industry for the Bill, as indeed there has been on every other aspect in your Lordships’ House and another place. While I am grateful for the opportunity to revisit old debates today, I cannot accept the amendments that noble Lords have brought.
Earl Attlee Portrait Earl Attlee (Con)
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My Lords, I am grateful for the contribution of all noble Lords. My noble friend the Minister called in the support of many organisations that agree with government policy, but many of them do not understand how the Section 40 arrangements work due to the absolutely brilliant campaign by the News Media Association, which I think is the best trade association ever.

On the issue of wash-up, I do not think that this is satisfactory. This is a highly controversial matter. We should have dropped Clause 50 and left it for the next Parliament. There is no difficulty in that at all; there are loads of suitable Bills that could have been used. I agree that we needed to remove the sword of Damocles —the ability of the Government of the day to commence Section 40 at any time. We did need to do something about it; I just do not think we got the right solution.

I turn to the noble Lord, Lord Pannick. I enjoy debating with him; I expected him to be vigorous. I would agree to debate with him only if I knew I was right.

As I understand it, the Sitting of your Lordships’ House was suspended for very senior politicians at the other end of the Corridor to try to work out what the answer is. It is clear to me that people outside the Chamber—not us lot, but others—have been working really hard to try to work out what the right answer is. I think the best thing we can do is to allow Clause 50 to go ahead unamended. If a noble Lord did want to seek the opinion of the House, I would not advise it; on the other hand, I would not call foul either.

Amendment 11 withdrawn.
Amendments 12 and 13 not moved.
Amendment 14
Moved by
14: After Clause 50, insert the following new Clause—
“Consultation on incentivising recognition by the approved regulator(1) Within six months of the day on which this Act is passed, the Secretary of State must publish a call for evidence seeking views on alternative incentives to encourage publishers or regulators to seek recognition under the terms of the Royal Charter for the Self-Regulation of the Press.(2) The Secretary of State must lay before each House of Parliament a report setting out the Government’s formal response to evidence submitted in response to the call for evidence required by subsection (1).(3) The Secretary of State may not make an order under section 55(3)(ga) bringing any part of section 50 into force until the report specified in subsection (2) has been laid before both Houses of Parliament.”
Viscount Astor Portrait Viscount Astor (Con)
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My Lords, yesterday we debated my amendment, and in normal circumstances I would not have moved it again today, but yesterday there were extraordinary circumstances because our debate was overshadowed by a certain announcement. At the very moment when the noble Baroness, Lady Hollins, stood up to make what I thought was an important contribution, both Front Benches were attached to their mobile telephones, looking at the news. My noble friend the Minister is the most attentive Minister, and I commend him on all the work he has done on the Bill, but in those circumstances I was somewhat off the ball, as was almost everybody in the Chamber, in listening to what the noble Baroness said. I regret that, which is one of the reasons I thought it was important to speak today.

Neither did your Lordships have a chance to see the letter from Sir Brian Leveson, in which he made some important points. I recommend that the noble Lord, Lord Pannick, might read it, so that he can have a good old-fashioned legal row with him. Sir Brian Leveson made two important points, as I will reiterate. He absolutely debunked the contention that the Press Recognition Panel is a state regulator. I will not go into the details, because I do not think it necessary; noble Lords who wish to read the letter can find it in the Library. He also pointed out that Section 40 would not require publishers to pay costs even if they won; it is simply not the case.

It is a pity that we have had such truncated proceedings, because in normal circumstances we would have had Committee, and then everybody would have had a chance to read Sir Brian’s letter and either agree or disagree with it—at least they would have better understood the issues that are raised. Sadly, that will not be the case.

The noble Lord, Lord Bassam, was originally somewhat sympathetic to some of these ideas, but with the announcement of the election no Front Bench will put itself on the wrong side of the press—so there we are. But I have to say that noble Lords who oppose my amendment might rue the day because, whoever wins the next election, I suspect that something else might come, and it might be somewhat different. My amendment does not change government policy; it is the Government who are changing their policy. Section 40 was put in by a Conservative Government; it was a Conservative policy. It is no one else’s policy.

It is disappointing. I think the question that always has to be asked is this: are publishers and newspapers going to be the only industry in this country to mark its own homework? That question will be asked again and again; whatever one thinks of Impress and IPSO, there are questions. That is an issue that will come back again and again.

I want to make it clear that I am not going to press my amendment today, so my noble friend Lord Black need not come up with his usual diatribe against me. I enjoy his diatribes, because when one moves an amendment, one sometimes wonders whether one has got it right. When I listen to my noble friend Lord Black, I know I have got it right, and that is an enormous help to me.

It is disappointing that the Government could not consider more carefully the points made by Sir Brian Leveson. I hope future Governments will and that this is not the end of the debate. I make it clear that this is not an attack about press freedom. I agree with my noble friend Lord Attlee. I am trying to make sure that those who are not in a position to have some comeback when they are treated unfairly are protected better than they are now. I beg to move.

Lord Parkinson of Whitley Bay Portrait Lord Parkinson of Whitley Bay (Con)
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My Lords, I am grateful to my noble friend Lord Astor for outlining his amendment today. We debated much the same amendment yesterday. I will speak to it and the other amendments in this group.

The Government are committed to a free and independent press which, as I said, is vital to our democracy. There now exists a strengthened, independent, self-regulatory system for the press. The majority of traditional publishers are members of IPSO. Some publishers have joined Impress, while others, including the Financial Times and the Guardian, have chosen to stay outside either regulator, with their own detailed self-regulatory arrangements. These regulators enforce codes of conduct which provide guidance on a range of areas including discrimination, accuracy, privacy and harassment. If they find that a newspaper has broken the code of conduct, they can order corrections.

Given our commitment to independent self-regulation, it is not government policy to review the efficacy of press regulators. The Government have committed to independent self-regulation of the press. This extends to not intervening in or overseeing the work of the press regulators. Accepting Amendment 15 would amount to government regulation of the press and I am not able to accept it.

Turning to the amendments tabled by my noble friend Lord Astor and the noble Baroness, Lady Hollins, the Government do not interfere with what the press can or cannot publish. That extends to endorsing regulators of which publishers should become members. Consulting on, with a view to creating, other incentives to the press to join a Press Recognition Panel-backed regulator that a consultation might identify would conflict with the Government’s clearly stated position. Indeed, the Government consulted on the repeal of Section 40 in its entirety in 2016—eight years ago—and the vast majority of respondents backed repealing it. That was reflected in our previous two manifestos, as I pointed out. For those reasons, I am afraid I am not able to accept Amendments 14, 17 and 18.

I shall say a bit about Amendment 16, tabled by the noble Lords, Lord Watts and Lord Watson of Wyre Forest, which would introduce a requirement on publishers that are not members of a Press Recognition Panel-backed regulator to publish a reply or correction where they have published information containing a “significant factual inaccuracy”. The requirement would be triggered by a demand made by an individual to whom the information relates. In practice, this amendment would incentivise membership of Impress, as I think the noble Lords know, and, as with the commencement of Section 40, could disadvantage publishers who choose not to join Impress. I think I have made my views very clear, so for those reasons I am not able to accept that amendment either.

I hope noble Lords will not press their amendments.

Viscount Astor Portrait Viscount Astor (Con)
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My Lords, I thank the Minister for his response and for the way that he has conducted the Bill. I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment 14 withdrawn.
Amendments 15 and 16 not moved.
Clause 55: Commencement
Amendments 17 and 18 not moved.
Moved by
Lord Parkinson of Whitley Bay Portrait Lord Parkinson of Whitley Bay
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That the Bill do now pass.

Lord Parkinson of Whitley Bay Portrait Lord Parkinson of Whitley Bay (Con)
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My Lords, I am grateful to noble Lords for their understanding and flexibility today. This is my first wash-up.

Lord Hunt of Wirral Portrait Lord Hunt of Wirral (Con)
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You look very clean!

Lord Parkinson of Whitley Bay Portrait Lord Parkinson of Whitley Bay (Con)
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Yes, I feel very clean at the end of it—thoroughly washed.

I am grateful to noble Lords who have given this Bill considerable scrutiny in pre-legislative scrutiny and during our debates on Second Reading and in Committee. As I have said throughout, it has been amended through the pre-legislative scrutiny it received. I am glad that we have been able to reflect some of our debate in Committee and amend it further. I am grateful to noble Lords for their understanding and recognition of the great support and demand that it has from the media sector, which we all cherish and which we know will play its very important part in the election campaign that is now under way. I particularly thank the noble Baroness, Lady Thornton, and the noble Lord, Lord Bassam of Brighton, on the Benches opposite and the noble Baroness, Lady Bonham-Carter of Yarnbury, and her noble friend, the noble Lord, Lord Foster of Bath, who spoke from the Front Bench for the Lib Dems. However, noble Lords from across the House have given it robust scrutiny, including today in this swifter form.

I will briefly pay tribute to my honourable friend Julia Lopez, the Minister for Media, Tourism and the Creative Industries in another place, and indeed to my right honourable friend Sir John Whittingdale, who covered her maternity leave for parts of the Bill. They have both played an important part in it. I thank my noble friend Lady Stowell of Beeston, who chairs your Lordships’ Communications and Digital Committee and has given careful consideration to this Bill and, with other members of her committee, to many of the other issues that are related to it.

I have already had the opportunity to thank the Bill team, but I repeat my thanks. They have worked particularly hard in the last 24 hours, but this is the culmination of many years’ work since the Bill was first produced in draft form and laid for pre-legislative scrutiny. I am delighted that their hard work means that we will be able to send it on its way to the statute book. It is perhaps appropriate to finish with some words from Bruce Springsteen: “Come on, let’s go tonight”.

Baroness Bonham-Carter of Yarnbury Portrait Baroness Bonham-Carter of Yarnbury (LD)
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I have not had the chance to say my thanks and I want to thank the Minister. Apart from anything else, his sense of humour throughout this has been really helpful and refreshing. His genuine passion for the DCMS has also really come through. As I said earlier, I wish this could have gone on longer. I suspect we could have got some more concessions through him. I also thank my friends on the Labour Benches and those on the Cross Benches, although they have gone. This has been a very collegiate event. Of course, I thank everyone on my Benches, although they seem not to be here—well, one of them seems to be here, and of course my noble friend Lord Addington.

Lord McNally Portrait Lord McNally (LD)
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Who is this Bruce Springsteen that everybody has been talking about?

Baroness Bonham-Carter of Yarnbury Portrait Baroness Bonham-Carter of Yarnbury (LD)
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Yes, there was one little thing I wondered. The noble Lord, Lord Watson, said that he was going to have lunch. For a moment, I thought it was with Bruce Springsteen.

Baroness Bonham-Carter of Yarnbury Portrait Baroness Bonham-Carter of Yarnbury (LD)
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You were not—oh, my goodness. Anyway, as I was saying, I thank everyone, including the Government for making the Bill happen. It is hugely important for our public service broadcasters. That is enough of my thanks and I have not cried.

Lord Bassam of Brighton Portrait Lord Bassam of Brighton (Lab)
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My Lords, I sort of gave my thanks yesterday, as I was not really sure what we would be doing today—and I was not alone. I want to thank the noble Lord, Lord Parkinson, again for his courtesy. We are extraordinarily grateful for the two amendments that he accepted, which my noble friend Lady Thornton and I were very keen to see inserted in the Bill, along with others in your Lordships’ House.

It is always a joy to work with the noble Baroness, Lady Bonham-Carter, and—from the far reaches of the back of the Lib Dem Benches—it is now an even greater pleasure to work with the noble Lord, Lord McNally. Actually, I have an anecdote about death and buses, which I am quite determined to tell, now I think about it. There is a custom in Brighton for its buses to have put on their side or their front the names of well-known local personalities who have, sadly, deceased. So well-known was the lead local government correspondent of the Argus that the bus company decided that he had died, so they put his name on the front of the bus—only to discover that he wrote a column the following week saying, “No, actually, I’m still here. You’ll have to wait”.

I thank our back office team, including Clare Scally and Grace Wright, for the work they did in making sure my noble friend Lady Thornton and I spoke words that were reasonably sensible, sane and well-researched from the Dispatch Box. I have already thanked the noble Baroness, Lady Stowell, for her contribution, and I do again. Today’s debate—passionate as ever—was focused well on an important and contentious subject. It is one that no doubt the House will return to in different guises in the future. I thank my noble friends Lord Watson and Lord Watts for their contributions. Their views are important.

With that, we wish the Bill well, as it is important. Broadcasters have been buzzing me on my email and message system, as they have been to other noble Lords, to encourage us to get this Bill over the line because it is terribly important for the future of public service broadcasting. We all want to get this right, because it is an important element of our democratic process. We know that it is a business and industry of excellence that we wish to support. With that said, I wish the Bill well on its way.

Bill passed and returned to the Commons with amendments.