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Media Bill

Debate between Lord Bassam of Brighton and Lord Parkinson of Whitley Bay
Lord Bassam of Brighton Portrait Lord Bassam of Brighton (Lab)
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My Lords, I can usually spot a cunning plan when there is one afoot, and I fancy that our debate this afternoon is going to be overshadowed by events outside this House as the lectern has already been rolled out. This is an eclectic group of amendments which raise some important issues on radio regulation. The noble Lord, Lord Storey, in Amendments 71, 73 and 74 seeks to establish a baseline of locally provided programmes. I suspect we all have some sympathy with this.

There was a time when local radio was genuinely that: local. I well remember, as a local government leader, a time when both commercial and public service broadcast—BBC—radio stations used to call me up to face a quizzical reporter or phone-in audiences on local issues. But it has been a while since those days, as less and less content is generated from a locality. Basically, “local” means anything but that, as the programmes can be made and broadcast anywhere, as the noble Lord, Lord Storey, accurately described, and have no particular geographical audience.

Most commercial radio stations now work to the same format and are owned by fewer and fewer companies, with little or no community input. Sadly, they have contributed to the overall decline of local news as well. As we know, the BBC has much reduced its local services—several noble Lords have mentioned this—as part of its slimming down of local radio. It remains an open question as to how practical and workable the amendments of the noble Lord, Lord Storey, are in the current context, and that is a question for us to consider.

I turn to the amendments from the noble Baroness, Lady Berridge, particularly Amendment 72, which I think we would all accept hits on a very significant issue. If we want to look at radio coverage in the context of levelling up—and I think we should—we clearly have a long way to go, because there are definitely issues of access. Last year, we passed legislation that in theory should enable better coverage digitally, but it remains the case that rural areas are still significantly disadvantaged. In replying to the noble Baroness, can the Minister update the Committee today on progress and how the Government see, and are seeking, other means to redress this widely perceived imbalance? Are there, for instance, any government targets in place that are designed to move the UK towards a more universal quality of coverage that will take account of rural and local needs?

Turning to the amendments from the noble Lord, Lord Foster, on radio news impartiality, I say that, yes, of course there should be careful consideration by Ofcom, both for television and radio, when current affairs shows are on either news stations or channels, or stations that focus heavily on news and current affairs. The noble Lord, Lord Vaizey, seems to have introduced a new expression into our debate today: “opinionated news”. I thought that was a very good expression and not one I had heard before. I do not think that we can easily move away from challenging that. How we resolve the fact that politicians of a particular party host such shows in the face of regulations that are pretty clear on impartiality and balance is something we need now to seriously consider, and the noble Lord raises a telling question.

We must also ensure that Ofcom has the tools it needs to decide on impartiality when it comes to politically hosted shows. Perhaps the Minister could outline what discussions he and his department have had with Ofcom on this matter, because it is a matter of serious concern. We need considerable reassurance on this because, hand on heart, we cannot say that it is working as well as it should—despite what the noble Lord, Lord Vaizey, says about Ofcom having a very good team covering radio. I am sure that is true and that great diligence is exhibited there, but we need to move on and ensure that Ofcom can get on with the job in a way that satisfies widespread public concern about impartiality rules.

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, I am pleased that we are now at the section of the Bill dealing with radio and able to say that the state of radio in the UK is in good health. The medium continues to be attractive to new generations of listeners, while the proportion of adults who listen each week is virtually unchanged from a decade ago. I imagine quite a few people are tuning in right now to their radios across the UK.

However, UK radio also faces many more challenges than it did in the past, with competition from technology platforms and online streaming providers, and it is vital that stations large and small are able to adapt their services in response to listeners’ preferences, which is why the measures in the Bill regarding radio are so important.

I am grateful to the noble Lord, Lord Storey, for his Amendments 71 and 73, which would require Ofcom to determine the licensing process for new local and restricted services licences within six months of the Bill’s completed passage. We would, however, consider such a requirement on Ofcom to be unduly prescriptive. As the UK’s independent regulator, not only for radio but also for spectrum management and specific frequency allocations, we believe that Ofcom should continue to have wide discretion in how it carries out its functions in respect of its regulation of radio services. We are not persuaded that overlaying new and prescriptive requirements on its duties is necessary.

My noble friend Lady Berridge, speaking to Amendment 72, referred to the meeting we had yesterday with my honourable friend Julia Lopez, the Minister for Media, Tourism and the Creative Industries. I was very grateful to my noble friend and to the noble Viscount, Lord Colville of Culross, for giving up their time to join us to discuss it. Her amendment seeks to ensure that, in areas defined as rural or in those that present a topographical issue—hilly or mountainous terrain or other things that get in the way of radio broadcast and limit the availability of digital services—Ofcom would be required to grant an FM licence to the organisation applying. That would mark a departure from the present licensing system, as we discussed yesterday, and create legal uncertainties about when this requirement applies and who would judge whether a particular area is unsuitable for a digital radio service.

Since 2003, Ofcom has had responsibility to secure the optimal use of the spectrum in determining where and how to license FM and other radio services. This amendment would conflict with that responsibility, especially in the case of areas where Ofcom judges that there may not be spectrum available to license further FM services.

Since 2010, Ofcom has successfully focused on developing community radio. A number of noble Lords rightly pointed out that this is greatly valued by people across the UK, with 320 services, the majority of which are on FM, across the country bringing an important degree of local choice and diversity. Ofcom has also focused on developing digital radio. Ofcom is currently focusing on small-scale DAB, which is now in its sixth round of licence awards, with 59 areas currently licensed, giving cost-effective opportunities for small commercial and community stations to broadcast on DAB as well as online. A number of these new multiplexes are located in more rural areas of the country, bringing new stations on air in these locations.

My noble friend raised very eloquently some pertinent points about the lack of services in more rural areas, such as the Vale of Catmose in her territorial designation. Ofcom has offered FM community radio licences in the most recent licensing round between 2017 and 2020 to people interested in developing community services. Although the most recent licensing round was a successful exercise, with more than 70 new community radio stations launching, rural areas with smaller populations may have specific challenges in being able to bring together viable proposals for community radio services, as my noble friend outlined in her speech.

With Ofcom’s licensing of small-scale DAB coming to a natural break point, I can tell my noble friend that we plan to work with Ofcom to look at the case for supporting new radio services in rural and remote areas and to assess possible options for helping to support these services get on air. To that end, my honourable friend Julia Lopez is very happy to write to Ofcom, asking it to provide advice on this, and to publish a copy of her letter. That can be done swiftly and I hope that, with that commitment to ask Ofcom to look at the case for supporting new stations in rural and remote areas, my noble friend will be content not to press her amendment and perhaps to continue to discuss this with us.

I turn to Amendment 74 tabled by the noble Lord, Lord Storey. Like many who spoke, I recognise the important contribution that commercial radio stations play in delivering local news and other local information. The noble Lord’s amendment, which seeks to put in legislation the current requirements on local production and news drawn from the current Ofcom guidance, would be a significant change to the radio deregulation measures. It would reinstate the requirements for maintaining local production, resulting in higher costs for commercial radio broadcasters. By putting the current Ofcom localness guidance on a statutory basis, it would also limit Ofcom’s flexibility to develop new guidance that will set the expectations to enable Ofcom to hold stations to account for their compliance with the new locally gathered news and to adapt the guidance in future. Fixing these requirements in this way would result in additional long-term costs, which may have an impact on the financial viability of the sector and its ability to invest in content. It is worth noting that there are no similar provisions for the BBC under its royal charter or agreement.

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Lord Bassam of Brighton Portrait Lord Bassam of Brighton (Lab)
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Perhaps the Minister can help here. I am wondering what a newscaster is, having heard what the noble Lord, Lord Grade, said.

Lord Parkinson of Whitley Bay Portrait Lord Parkinson of Whitley Bay (Con)
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I will write on that point, having consulted the noble Lord, Lord Grade, to make sure that I give the correct definition.

I am afraid that, as the noble Lord, Lord Foster of Bath, will have understood, I am not able to accept his amendments and hope that he will be content not to press them.

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Lord Parkinson of Whitley Bay Portrait Lord Parkinson of Whitley Bay (Con)
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The Bill sets out the ability for Ofcom to assess the state of the market with the Digital Radio and Audio Review. We will do our own assessment of it and, through the Bill’s secondary powers, that work can be updated.

Lord Bassam of Brighton Portrait Lord Bassam of Brighton (Lab)
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Is the Minister content that that point is covered by that? Is there sufficient flexibility in the legislation to enable that?

Lord Parkinson of Whitley Bay Portrait Lord Parkinson of Whitley Bay (Con)
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Yes. We recognise, and the provisions of the Bill acknowledge, that an increasing amount of listening is taking place online. It is not yet clear, however, what form the evolution is taking and, in particular, how the ongoing provision of radio’s public value, which has been fundamental to the strength of radio over the past century, will be retained. We have committed to that further review of the radio and audio market in 2026, and the growth and direction of online listening will be an important part of it. If it proves appropriate in due course, the provisions in new Section 362BA allow the definition of regulated radio selection service to be amended. The Bill provides for it in that way.

Lord Bassam of Brighton Portrait Lord Bassam of Brighton (Lab)
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I will study the Minister’s words carefully.

Lord Parkinson of Whitley Bay Portrait Lord Parkinson of Whitley Bay (Con)
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As the noble Lord always does.

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Lord Bassam of Brighton Portrait Lord Bassam of Brighton (Lab)
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My Lords, I sense that this debate is coming rapidly to a close. The noble Baroness, Lady Stowell, has doggedly pursued this issue with others and I wholeheartedly congratulate her on her determination to ensure that we maintain a free and fair press without foreign intervention.

This amendment takes the noble Baroness’s critique of foreign state ownership a stage further by seeking to review the impact of the measure on UK broadcasters. Obviously, government should always keep under careful consideration and review the impact of particular policies. This will, I suspect, be a feature of debate from time to time. We need to consider the impact of foreign ownership on all news media outlets, not just the press, and we need to understand, and protect our press from, undue interference. We have made it clear on our Benches, throughout the debates on the future of the Telegraph Group, that we are fully committed to upholding press freedom and the independence of all news outlets.

We cannot tolerate external interference in the politics of our country; that does not really need underlining much more on a day like today. At a time when the media are often being attacked by the exercise of deepfakes, this vital principle takes on a new importance. We need to ensure in the future, as much as we can, that our democracy is protected. A free and independent press and broadcasting sector is key to that, so I hope the Minister will give a considered response to that point.

I particularly pick up on the point of the noble Baroness, Lady Stowell, about regulations relating to the amendments we recently passed to another Bill. I do not think they are otiose, despite the calling of an election. They will be important in the future, and she is right to insist that work should be carried on to ensure that they are properly and correctly drafted so that they can be reviewed when a new Government are in place. Her point on the Ofcom review of ownership rules, which is to commence in November, is an important insight and one that we clearly all need to concentrate on and give some thought to while we go through the electoral process.

I am going to go slightly off-piste here before we conclude this debate and thank the Minister, the noble Lord, Lord Parkinson, for the time that he and I have spent together across the Dispatch Box and for the courtesies he has extended to me, my noble friend Lady Thornton and other colleagues during the passage of this legislation. I particularly enjoyed the contributions from the noble Baroness, Lady Stowell, and, although she is not in her place, I thank the noble Baroness, Lady Bonham-Carter, for her continued and assiduous interest in this. I also thank the noble Lord, Lord Foster, who is a powerful and important voice in your Lordships’ Chamber.

I suspect we will not have much more debate on the Media Bill, wash-up being the vicious process that it is, but we on these Benches have been happy to support it in the main. I am sorry we will not have the opportunity to give it a bit more detailed scrutiny on Report, but that is the nature of how we do our business. I thank the Minister for his attention to this, and I look forward to listening to his response.

Lord Parkinson of Whitley Bay Portrait Lord Parkinson of Whitley Bay (Con)
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My Lords, an afternoon is certainly a long time in politics and the noble Lord, Lord Bassam, is probably right that this is a good moment to thank all noble Lords who have given detailed consideration to the Bill in Committee, and indeed during its pre-legislative scrutiny. It has been fortunate in the sense that it was scrutinised before it came to your Lordships’ House, it was improved by that process and we have had very good debates throughout this Committee. I too am grateful for the courtesies, the time and attention that the noble Lord and the noble Baroness opposite have given to the Bill, as well as the noble Lord and the noble Baroness on the Lib Dem Front Bench and noble Lords across the Chamber. I am glad we have been able to dedicate a lot of time to this, both in the Chamber and outside. It has been a pleasure working with them.

On the amendment, it is a delight to be able to join in the praise that was directed to my noble friend Lady Stowell of Beeston for her very careful consideration of matters not just in this Bill but on related issues in the Digital Markets, Competition and Consumers Bill.

The Government are committed to a pluralistic media landscape in which the public can access a wide range of accurate, high-quality news, views and information. Maintaining a free and thriving press is both a government-wide commitment and a personal priority for my right honourable friend the Secretary of State, who recognises, as I know my noble friend does, that our free press is a key pillar of our healthy and vital democracy. We acknowledge that the acquisition of UK news organisations by foreign states would run the risk of eroding trust in those vital organisations. This concern was the driving factor behind the introduction of the new foreign state intervention regime for newspapers and periodical news magazines, for which my noble friend was a compelling advocate.

It is clear from my noble friend’s remarks that the same concerns that led to the creation of that regime are also the motivation for the amendment she has tabled on ownership of UK broadcasters, including their ownership by a foreign power. Let me start by making clear that the restrictions on foreign state ownership of newspapers are designed to meet concern about a very specific risk, and the same approach is not necessarily appropriate for broadcasters. Newspapers and news magazines have a primary function to provide news and information, and therefore play a targeted role in helping to shape opinions and contributing to wider political debate. While our television and radio broadcasters also play a crucial role in the news landscape, their role is considerably more diverse, and the holding of a broadcasting licence is already well regulated through existing legislation.

Television and radio broadcasters in the UK operate within a well-established licensing regime overseen by Ofcom. As the independent regulator, it ensures that persons who own or control a licence are “fit and proper” to hold that licence and follow Broadcasting Code rules. There are also limitations on the persons who may hold or control broadcasting licences. For example, any

“body whose objects are wholly or mainly of a political nature”

cannot hold a licence.

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Lord Bassam of Brighton Portrait Lord Bassam of Brighton (Lab)
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Perhaps the Minister will comment on whether this matter has been under active consideration, because I think that is important. There is a shared concern across the Chamber on this, and the noble Baroness has touched on a very good point.

Lord Parkinson of Whitley Bay Portrait Lord Parkinson of Whitley Bay (Con)
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I certainly think it would be prudent for Ofcom to consider that. It is a matter for Ofcom, and it is important that I do not put words in its mouth as an independent regulator, but it is important that it can do that and make its representations to the Government, to Parliament and publicly, in an independent way. On the extent to which it has done so to date, it is probably better if I set that out in writing so that I am able fully to account for what has been done so far. In brief, it is a matter for Ofcom as the independent regulator, and it has the means to set that out.

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Lord Bassam of Brighton Portrait Lord Bassam of Brighton (Lab)
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I can advise the noble Lord that, during the period between now and the general election, he will be the Minister most watched and listened to.

Lord Parkinson of Whitley Bay Portrait Lord Parkinson of Whitley Bay (Con)
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Thank you. Let me turn to the questions posed by my noble friend Baroness Stowell. She asked when we should expect to see the regulations relating to online news. We will shortly consult on expanding the existing media measures regime and the foreign state ownership provisions to include online news websites. That will enable us to make changes which ensure that online news, whether from an established newspaper group or an online publisher, is covered by the media regime and the new measures we are introducing for foreign state media ownership.

My noble friend is right about civil servants’ ability to carry on working even during the election period. Judging from the activity in my private office, I can certainly say that they are already springing into action on a number of fronts in the best traditions of the Civil Service. Work will of course continue as it always does, notwithstanding an election. This is an opportunity for me to thank the officials who have been working on the Bill and who will continue to work on these areas—rather hastily—over the next few days, but also more broadly on an ongoing basis in the way we have set out.

My noble friend mentioned the review of media ownership rules. I confirm that Ofcom can look at whatever it would like to in its review of the rules. The Secretary of State does not have to issue instructions to Ofcom to do so. I am happy to clarify that and, I hope, assist with some of the confusion which my noble friend has pointed out.

On the timing of regulations for what we termed the “carve-out”, as my noble friend knows, we are currently undertaking a consultation on proposed regulations to follow the Digital Markets, Competition and Consumers Bill to ensure that the drafting achieves our stated policy objectives in terms of the partial carve- out of small minority stakes held by sovereign wealth funds. The regulations will be finalised when the consultation concludes. We hope then to align the timeline for the introduction of these regulations with the Digital Markets, Competition and Consumers Bill.

Media Bill

Debate between Lord Bassam of Brighton and Lord Parkinson of Whitley Bay
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, I hear often talk about how we need an assembly of the nations and regions, but, as the noble Lord, Lord Bassam, has said, we have had a great display of that today from your Lordships’ Committee, with contributions from across the United Kingdom.

As I set out on our first day in Committee, His Majesty’s Government are committed to stimulating growth in our world-leading production sector throughout the length and breadth of the UK. As the noble Lord, Lord Wigley, pointed out, there is a long and proud tradition of that happening across the UK; he gave many examples from Wales, understandably, and pointed to the north of England as well. We have this month lost Gudrun Ure, who played the eponymous Super Gran—a production I enjoyed in my childhood, made by Tyne Tees Television and filmed along the north-east coast in Whitley Bay, Cullercoats, Tynemouth and many other places. It was a powerful example of the emotional pull of TV production in inspiring tourism and encouraging people to visit but also in bringing production closer and, I hope, awakening sparks in people wherever it is made.

As noble Lords have alluded to, it is important to point out that the picture at the moment is a strong one. In 2022, all of our public service broadcasters exceeded their regional production quotas, and some significantly so. We have seen good and significant growth in production outside England and outside our capital. Production spending in Scotland is now worth over £266 million, supported by developments including Channel 4 opening one of its creative hubs in Glasgow in 2019. Television production in Wales continues to make impressive strides forward, with the proportion of hours of BBC content produced in Wales increasing year on year, in part thanks to major productions such as “Wolf” and the rest of the menagerie of animals that my noble friend Lady Bloomfield of Hinton Waldrist mentioned. Northern Ireland’s production industry is making a significant contribution, as shown by the rise in hours of content produced there and broadcast on public service broadcasters, which has increased consistently over the past five years. The BBC, Channel 4 and Channel 5 all increased their production expenditure in Northern Ireland in 2022. The growth in production outside London in recent years is a great success story, and our public service broadcasters have been one of the significant contributors to that growth.

We are also encouraged by commitments to go further, such as the BBC’s pledge in its BBC Across the UK strategy to increase its production expenditure outside the capital to 60% by 2027, and Channel 4’s pledge to continue to spend 50% of its main channel commissioning budget outside London. However, it is right that we keep this progress under review, and I welcome the opportunity we have had to debate these issues this afternoon, thanks to the amendments that have been tabled in this group.

Let me start by addressing Amendments 16 and 17 in the name of my noble friend Lady Fraser of Craigmaddie and acknowledge the support that she expressed on behalf of the noble Baroness, Lady Foster of Aghadrumsee, with whom I have had the opportunity to discuss some aspects of the Bill outside the Chamber. The regulatory system proposed in the Bill will continue to support the success of the industry in several ways. The Bill is explicit in Clause 1 of its intention to recognise the need for programmes produced outside London through our new public service remit. Underpinning this is the detailed system of quotas on which this amendment focuses. This system already creates the mechanisms to hold public service broadcasters to account, and the success of the UK production sector demonstrates this.

The level of these quotas is set by Ofcom, which has broad powers to amend them as it sees appropriate. Should the success of the UK production sector not continue, Ofcom has the power to take action. It could, for example, increase regional production quotas over time, in much the same way as envisaged by the amendments that my noble friend has proposed, or it could tie the quotas to population shares. I can see why it might be tempting to pre-empt or constrain Ofcom’s consideration of these matters and to legislate directly as these amendments suggest and as the noble Viscount, Lord Colville of Culross, set out in his contribution.

I agree with the noble Viscount that there is an important role for Parliament. We are all grateful that the chairman of Ofcom, the noble Lord, Lord Grade of Yarmouth, is in your Lordships’ House and is in his place to hear these debates. Even if he were not a Member of your Lordships House, Parliament has the opportunity to express its views directly and indirectly through the Select Committees and through my department. I hope the noble Viscount would agree that it is also important that Ofcom can act with agility in this dynamic and often fast-changing sector.

It is essential that Ofcom has the flexibility to calculate regional quotas on broadcasters independently, weighing the evidence and balancing the different equities in the sector. That approach allows Ofcom to alter quotas smoothly over time to react to developments that it sees. As the financial position of both the public service broadcasters and the sector more broadly changes over time, we want Ofcom to be able to take this into account and adjust quotas accordingly, without the need for primary legislation on each occasion.

However, I reassure noble Lords that I, and my colleagues in DCMS, have heard the strength of feeling on this issue from the sector, particularly in relation to Channel 4’s “out of England” quota, which is set at 9% of eligible programmes and expenditure. I note that Ofcom is currently consulting on the terms of Channel 4’s next licence, which will come into force from 1 January next year, and also that Channel 4 has said that it would support a managed and carefully considered increase to its programme-making commitments in the other 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.

For our part, the Government will continue our broad support for the screen industries across the United Kingdom through generous tax reliefs, as we saw in the last Budget and previous ones, through investment in studios such as the Crown Works Studios, which the right Reverend Prelate the Bishop of Newcastle rightly reminded us of, supporting innovation and promoting independent content through the UK Global Screen Fund.

We want to see the production sector continue to thrive. When it comes to our public service broadcasters’ contribution to that goal, we believe that the existing system of regional production quotas, which, as I say, our public service broadcasters can and do exceed—some of them significantly—remains the best way to continue to drive the growth that we have seen in recent years in every part of the UK.

For these reasons, I am not able to accept the amendments that my noble friend Lady Fraser of Craigmaddie has set out, but I accept the invitation that the noble Lord, Lord McNally, reiterated on her behalf and, if I may, I extend it to the noble Lord, Lord Grade, or one of his colleagues at Ofcom, so that we can talk in more detail and, I hope, seek to reassure her further about how the existing system provides for the concerns that she has set out.

Lord Bassam of Brighton Portrait Lord Bassam of Brighton (Lab)
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The noble Viscount, Lord Colville, made a good point about Parliament being consulted. I wonder if the noble Lord could say something about how both Houses—and Select Committees—could be consulted and considered in the question of quotas and the distribution of regional production. I do think that is an important element of this debate, and I am sure noble Lords around the Committee will want to hear something positive on that.

Lord Parkinson of Whitley Bay Portrait Lord Parkinson of Whitley Bay (Con)
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I hope the meeting I have just indicated I am very happy to hold will be an opportunity to do that, with representatives of both the Government and Ofcom present, and an opportunity for noble Lords to ask questions on the issues of quotas, and not just in relation to the Bill that is before us. As the noble Lord says, Select Committees on an ongoing basis allow for the scrutiny of Ofcom’s work.

Turning to Amendment 54, in the name of the noble Lord, Lord Wigley, I recognise the intention behind his amendment, which seeks to address concerns about the programmes that our public service broadcasters are counting towards their regional programme-making quotas. As he and my noble friend Lady Bloomfield said, this has been referred to as “brass plating”, and I am grateful in particular to the Welsh Affairs Committee in the other place for exploring this issue in its recent report, Broadcasting in Wales. As he noted, the trade association TAC has also raised this issue and has done so with my department directly.

My officials have raised the matter with Ofcom again following the publication of the Select Committee’s report. Ofcom has confirmed that, in order to qualify as a regional production, relevant productions must meet two of three criteria. These include the “substantive base” criterion, which is one of the focuses of the noble Lord’s amendment. However, productions are not able to rely on this criterion alone; they must also meet one of the two other criteria relating to production spending. Ofcom has also confirmed that it strengthened and clarified the requirements associated with the “substantive base” criterion when it updated its guidance on regional productions for public service broadcasters in 2019. This guidance came into effect for productions broadcast from 1 January 2021.

Having reflected on this advice, we remain of the view that Ofcom has the necessary powers to identify, examine and, if necessary, close any loopholes related to the regulatory regime for regional programme making. We do not, therefore, see the need to legislate in the area of the noble Lord’s amendment.

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Lord Bassam of Brighton Portrait Lord Bassam of Brighton (Lab)
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Might the noble Lord be prepared to meet them at some point? That might have some value.

Lord Parkinson of Whitley Bay Portrait Lord Parkinson of Whitley Bay (Con)
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Yes, either I or, I am sure, my colleague in another place who has direct responsibility for this, not just in relation to the Bill but more broadly, will be happy to speak to them further.

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Lord Bassam of Brighton Portrait Lord Bassam of Brighton (Lab)
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The right reverend Prelate must be an expert with a broom.

Lord Parkinson of Whitley Bay Portrait Lord Parkinson of Whitley Bay (Con)
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The House was stunned into silence by the revelation from the right reverend Prelate.

I thank noble Lords for the contributions they have made and the points raised on the other amendments in this group. We, of course, had a bit of a pre-match friendly during our debate on sport led by the noble Lord, Lord Wood of Anfield, on Thursday. Let me start with Amendments 25 and 26 from the noble Baroness, Lady Grey-Thompson.

The Government recognise the intent behind the noble Baroness’s amendments, and I know that she has had concerns about in particular the necessity of the new multisport provisions, whether “adequate live coverage” will meet the mark, and whether public service broadcasters will have the freedom to choose what they cover in the interests of their audiences. Perhaps I may take the opportunity to seek to offer her and other noble Lords reassurance on these questions.

First, on whether these provisions are necessary, the Bill introduces the concept of adequate live coverage for multisport events to ensure that partnerships between broadcasters which deliver for UK audiences can still go ahead in an age where dozens of sporting events can be taking place concurrently. We do not want inadvertently to create a regime which would prevent deals like the one currently in place between Warner Bros. Discovery and the BBC. Expansion of the scope of services covered by the regime to resolve the streaming loophole poses risks to these mutually beneficial partnerships between public service broadcasters and commercial broadcasters for multisport events. That is because the existing requirement for both parties to have the same coverage does not reflect the way that coverage is actually shared between them across different types of services.

There is no intention to weaken the public service broadcasters’ hand in negotiations, simply to ensure that partnerships between them and commercial broadcasters can function effectively to deliver the best outcomes for audiences and rights holders.

On whether “adequate live coverage” will hit the mark for audiences, it will be for Ofcom to make new regulations setting out what will be considered adequate. Following scrutiny and debate in another place, the Government amended to the Bill to set out the matters that Ofcom must take into account when defining adequate live coverage in its regulations. This is an example of Parliament giving direction to the regulator through legislation. This includes the forms of live coverage that would satisfy the interests of the public, and the desirability of facilitating arrangements which result in live coverage of listed events being shown on both public service and non-public service broadcasters.

To protect audiences’ interests, and in keeping with deals we have seen before, any partnership of this nature will require at least two live broadcasts on public service broadcasters. Ofcom is given the power to require more than two streams if it deems it necessary or appropriate, and it could also set requirements regarding the percentage of coverage or other considerations.

Finally, I think the noble Baroness, like me and others who have spoken, believes that it is vital that public service broadcasters continue to have the flexibility and editorial freedom to show the most incredible moments of these multisport events to public audiences. I reassure her and other noble Lords that the Bill enables Ofcom to require that “adequate live coverage” must allow the broadcaster involved to select what parts of the proceedings it wishes to show. It is vital that public service broadcasters maintain complete editorial control of live broadcasts when they enter partnerships so that they have the freedom to make decisions about what events to screen for the British public, and the Bill makes provisions for this.

For those reasons, I do not think that we need the amendments the noble Baroness has brought before us. However, I hope my words have provided reassurance about the checks and balances in place to deliver for audiences in the way she seeks.

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Lord Bassam of Brighton Portrait Lord Bassam of Brighton (Lab)
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I get the sense that the Minister is sympathetic to the point we have made here and that it is more a question of timescale. If the Government are looking at this, what sort of timescale do they think would be right for them to ponder the question more widely?

Lord Parkinson of Whitley Bay Portrait Lord Parkinson of Whitley Bay (Con)
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I am loath to set out a precise timescale, but the noble Lord is right: it is a matter of looking at this more fully, as well as considering the complexities of how it could be borne out if it were concluded that that were necessary.

I hope noble Lords will see, through the government amendments in this group, that we have worked with parliamentary counsel to respond to the points that were raised by the Select Committee and Members in another place about the scope of services to be captured by the regime. We have now closed the streaming loophole, which could otherwise have seen live coverage intended for UK audiences disappearing behind a paywall without the protections that the regime offers. However, as I have set out, it is a complex matter that needs a bit more thought. I am happy to set out some of that thinking and to allow officials to do so with the noble Lord if he would find that useful. For those reasons, I hope the noble Baroness, Lady Grey-Thompson, will understand that we cannot support her Amendment 30.

The noble Lord, Lord Bassam, has tabled Amendment 31A. I agree with him that it is crucial that audiences are able to view their favourite sports live in whatever way works for them, whether that is on a traditional TV platform or over the internet. However, as new technologies such as internet protocol television—IPTV—become more prevalent, we need to ensure that they continue to serve audiences. This amendment would ask Ofcom to review the delivery of listed events and other audiovisual content online, with a focus on how internet service providers can work with broadcasters to deliver IPTV. As I have said in previous debates, my department has an ongoing programme of work on the future of TV distribution. As part of this, we are working closely with the Department for Science, Innovation and Technology to consider many of the issues that the noble Lord, Lord Bassam, has raised today, including the reliability and quality of content provision on IPTV. That work is also ongoing.

Ultimately, while I agree that the issues that noble Lords have raised are important ones, this is not a Bill which is focused on the UK’s digital infrastructure. By considering the issue with regard to only one internet service—namely, television—we risk taking a piecemeal approach to what is an important and broader policy issue. For that reason, I am afraid I cannot accept the noble Lord’s Amendment 31A either. I commend Amendment 19 to the Committee.

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Lord Parkinson of Whitley Bay Portrait Lord Parkinson of Whitley Bay (Con)
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My Lords, Clause 31 forms an essential component of our plans to support Channel 4’s long-term sustainability so that the channel remains an important and distinctive part of our broadcasting system for many years to come. It is always a pleasure to hear praise from the Benches opposite for the legacies of the Thatcher Governments.

The publisher-broadcaster restriction, as set out in Section 295 of the Communications Act, is unique to Channel 4 and prevents it from being involved in the making of programmes for the Channel 4 service, except to such an extent as Ofcom may allow. As a result, Channel 4 is significantly more dependent on advertising revenue than other commercial broadcasters—a point that we have touched on, as the noble Lord, Lord Bassam, rightly reminds us, in the debates that we have had on alternative means for securing money for the channel’s long-term sustainability. In particular, two-thirds of Channel 4’s revenue comes from linear television advertising, the market for which is both highly cyclical and in long-term structural decline because of the declining number of people watching linear television.

In response to these challenges, last year the Government announced a package of reforms that would help to support Channel 4’s long-term sustainability while retaining it in public ownership. The removal of the publisher-broadcaster restriction is a key element of that package that will open up opportunities for Channel 4 to further diversify its revenues away from advertising by making its own programmes, should it choose to do so. The Government undertook an assessment of the impact of that and published it on GOV.UK. We will happily direct the noble Lord and others to that so that they can see the assessment that we set out when bringing the package of mitigations forward.

I understand the concerns set out by the two noble Baronesses about how the change might affect Channel 4’s support for the independent production sector across the UK, which were also raised when this issue was discussed in the other place, and we touched on it in our first group of amendments today. That is why, when we announced our intention to remove the restriction, we were clear that we would work closely with the production sector to ensure that Channel 4’s important role of driving investment into the sector would be safeguarded. The outcome of that work was a substantial package of mitigations that we announced in November, some of which, such as the introduction of new Channel 4 commissioning duties and an Ofcom-led review, are included in the Bill. Those mitigations, which also include increasing the level of Channel 4’s independent production quota, will be implemented in the event that Channel 4 incorporates a production company.

Channel 4 itself has welcomed the removal of the restriction and has said that in-house production could offer good long-term support for financial sustainability, while reaffirming its commitment to continue to invest in and champion independent producers, as it has done for the last 40 years. Ultimately, a stronger and more resilient Channel 4 will be best placed to continue playing its integral role in our broadcasting ecosystem for many years to come. By contrast, failing to remove Channel 4’s publisher-broadcaster restriction would mean passing up an opportunity to help it to deliver on that important ambition. That is why Clause 31 is an important clause and should stand part of the Bill.

Lord Bassam of Brighton Portrait Lord Bassam of Brighton (Lab)
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What sort of costs does the Minister anticipate the channel will face in setting up its own production company? Has any estimate been made of that? What discussions have the Government had with the company to ensure that it can secure that in the most cost-efficient way?

Lord Parkinson of Whitley Bay Portrait Lord Parkinson of Whitley Bay (Con)
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I have no estimate of my own, but I will happily find out and provide the noble Lord with any estimates that have been made.

Media Bill

Debate between Lord Bassam of Brighton and Lord Parkinson of Whitley Bay
Lord Bassam of Brighton Portrait Lord Bassam of Brighton (Lab)
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My Lords, this has been a fascinating debate, capped by a single show of dichotomy from the noble Lord, Lord Vaizey. I am sure that most of us found it both entertaining and enlightening, in line with true Reithian values.

As we draw this debate to a close, we should congratulate the noble Baroness, Lady Bull, on tabling her amendments in this group. As we have heard, they broadly relate to the Reithian principles that have under- pinned public service broadcasting for much of the last century. We on the Labour Benches have co-signed Amendments 1 to 3 and 7. Additionally, we support Amendment 8 in the name of the noble Baroness, Lady Boycott, so ably spoken to by the noble Baroness, Lady Hayman. We also support Amendment 33 on diversity. On reflection, having spoken to my colleague, the noble Baroness, Lady Thornton, I feel that we should have had a separate debate on the whole issue of diversity. It is merited in the context of the Bill. The noble Baroness, Lady Benjamin, underlined the importance of workplace diversity, as referred to by the noble Baroness, Lady Bonham-Carter. There is much to think through about what we see and how it is measured to ensure that our public service broadcasters reflect the diversity of our great nation.

I turn to the Reithian principles. My honourable friend Stephanie Peacock in another place said that she welcomed the attempts to simplify the remit of PSBs. I made a similar observation at Second Reading. As we have heard, a number of commentators have argued that this may have the unintended consequence of leading to rather more restricted content. The Communications Act 2003, which this part of the Bill seeks to update, gave a fair expression of the PSBs’ Reithian principles. Over time, these have become partly enshrined in particular genres. These amendments attempt to take the debate beyond genres and to talk to the issue of the fundamental purpose of public service broadcasting, in particular the purpose of broadcasting in a multimedia world now tackling the challenges of the digital age and digital content.

At Second Reading I said that, while the Bill was very welcome—it continues to be very welcome—and for the most part highly supportable, it seemed to lack an overarching purpose and principle: an abiding vision, if you like. As we have heard, Lord Reith believed that PSBs should “inform, educate and entertain”. The 2003 Act sought to flesh out what that meant. Labour enshrined those principles in legislation. In that regard, it did a more than serviceable job. This new legislation seeks to do it slightly more flexibly. Flexibility is one thing, but I think we need firm statements of principle and purpose. These amendments move to set Reithian standards and values in a more modern context.

We want public service broadcasters to retain high standards of content. We want them to maintain high- quality production and editorial integrity, as referenced in Amendment 1. We want to see content that meets the Reithian dictum of informing, educating and entertaining, while recognising the role of the sector in stimulating, reflecting and supporting the cultural and creative industries.

Finally, these amendments take us to the educative purpose of public service broadcasters and help promote a culture that values learning as a lifelong activity to serve all. Together, one could paraphrase a sort of John Prescott-ism and place old-style Reithian values in a modern setting. For that, and for the other reasons I have set out, we are very happy indeed to support this group of amendments. We hope to receive some words of encouragement from the Minister. I do not think public service broadcasters will object at all to this renewed obligation. It does much that will help Ofcom in its periodic reporting on this aspect of the public broadcasters’ remit.

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, I am grateful to the noble Baroness, Lady Bull, for starting our deliberations in Committee in such a careful and considered way. We have already had allusions to Chesterton, Orwell and Sonia from “EastEnders”, so we are off to a good start.

Media Bill

Debate between Lord Bassam of Brighton and Lord Parkinson of Whitley Bay
Lord Bassam of Brighton Portrait Lord Bassam of Brighton (Lab)
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My Lords, Amendments 14 and 15 in the name of the noble Viscount, Lord Culross, seek to finesse the Channel 4 commissioning regime that has worked so well for this highly innovative channel. I was one of the sceptics when Channel 4 was first thought of, and I remember writing an article which challenged the model. However, I have been proven wrong over those 40-plus years.

As the noble Viscount explained, he seeks to add an “SME guarantee” by virtue of Amendment 14 to the commissioning process to further stimulate the growth of indie production houses, in particular those with revenues of less than £25 million. Amendment 15 qualifies this to average out the £25 million cap over a five-year period.

The first amendment would require at least 35% of the channel’s spend to be on companies with a revenue of less than £25 million. We on these Benches can see some merit in this approach, and certainly in the direction of travel, given that the strength of Channel 4 has been the diversity it has brought to production, and that it has led to far more production outside the M25 and the south-east.

I am highly conscious that Channel 4 is thinking long term about the removal of the publisher/broadcaster restriction and its potential impact on independent producers. The channel is keen to protect the ecology of small production companies. It argued in a briefing earlier in the year that a move to in-house should be gradual, over a five-year period, and should not alter the value it places on the importance of independent production houses. As it says, its partnerships with indie producers have led to these companies growing, expanding and owning their intellectual property. Moreover, it has helped to spawn a whole new industry.

I can see that increasing the qualifying independent production quota from 25% to 35% would probably strengthen the indie sector, so today we would do well to listen to the Minister’s responses as to the workability of the amendments. I think we all share a common view—I hope we do—that the uniqueness of the Channel 4 commissioning model is of immense value to TV production generally and the development of the market, innovation, and the high production standards that UK TV is internationally renowned for. The Channel 4 approach has helped to give an edge to that. The question is, ultimately, whether this is the most appropriate way of protecting that reputation and ensuring that we have a sustainable independent production output.

The noble Viscount has done us a service this evening in tabling these amendments. We know that we must be very careful in tweaking the commissioning approach; as the noble Viscount said, there are industry concerns that we must listen to, and we have to find the best way forward to protect something that has become uniquely valuable in TV production. It is something that we support right across the House.

Lord Parkinson of Whitley Bay Portrait Lord Parkinson of Whitley Bay (Con)
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The diversity of our world-leading television production sector is one of the main reasons that it is so successful. We have companies of different sizes operating all over the UK, focusing on genres ranging from specialist factual to high-end drama and everything in between. Last year, these companies delivered the highest sector revenues on record: just under £4 billion. Smaller producers are, of course, hugely important for ensuring a healthy production ecosystem, and the current regulatory regime for independent production has been very successful indeed in promoting and supporting them. Boosting this independent sector was one of the purposes behind the design of Channel 4. I do not want to make the noble Lord, Lord Bassam, feel old, but I was not around to be a sceptic at the time of those debates—they happened before I was born. But Channel 4 has, as I have said from this Dispatch Box, done a great service over the last four decades, and the regulatory regime has supported that too.

PACT, the industry body, estimates that there are more than 250 independent producers with an annual turnover of less than £1 million operating in the market today. Its statistics also show that 75% of independent producers have an annual turnover of less than £25 million. These are the producers that the noble Viscount, Lord Colville of Culross, had in mind, particularly with his Amendments 14 and 15. The issue of providing further support for smaller independent producers is one that we have looked at closely, most recently through our work on the mitigations to accompany the removal of Channel 4’s publisher-broadcaster restriction, which noble Lords have noted.

The clear message from the sector when we did that was that the measures which singled out smaller producers specifically—for example, via a turnover threshold, as the noble Viscount’s Amendment 14 proposes—would not be welcome on the grounds that they would be anti-competitive and penalise success. Producers want an incentive to win more commissions and grow their businesses, not to stay small. Those we spoke to also raised concerns that such measures would be difficult for Ofcom to enforce and could lead to increased monitoring and compliance costs for the regulator. Although these issues are addressed in part by the additional flexibility which the noble Viscount offers through his Amendment 15, the overarching concerns that we have with this approach still stand.

The Government recognise that this is a challenging time for producers and the production sector because of the slowdown in commissioning activity as a result of the downturn in the television advertising market, and we are taking steps to support producers and the production sector at this time, including the generous tax reliefs across studio space and visual effects, investing in studio infrastructure, supporting innovation and promoting independent content through the UK Global Screen Fund, but, for the reasons I have set out, we do not feel that we are able to support the amendments which the noble Viscount has put before us, but we are grateful for the opportunity to have this debate.

Lord Byron: 200th Anniversary

Debate between Lord Bassam of Brighton and Lord Parkinson of Whitley Bay
Tuesday 16th April 2024

(1 month, 1 week ago)

Lords Chamber
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Lord Bassam of Brighton Portrait Lord Bassam of Brighton (Lab)
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My Lords, Lord Byron is rightly canonised as being symbolic of the international contribution that UK art and literature make to the world. Byron himself once said:

“But words are things, and a small drop of ink,

Falling like dew, upon a thought, produces

That which makes thousands, perhaps millions, think”.

In Greece, they celebrate National Byron Day on 19 April. Does the Minister think we should have a Byron day to celebrate the arts and the contribution that they make to our industry and culture? Does he agree that it will take more than moving the statue to ensure that we continue to revive our cultural sector?

Lord Parkinson of Whitley Bay Portrait Lord Parkinson of Whitley Bay (Con)
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I hope that the campaign to move the statue into Hyde Park, where it can be seen and admired by more people, will help to inspire people into art, whether that is sculpture or poetry, and to investigate history. The efforts of the Byron Society to promote this legacy are important. Many towns in Greece have an Odos Vyronos—that is, a Byron Street. He is perhaps better commemorated in Greece than in the land of his birth. I hope that this bicentenary will help inspire new generations of admirers.

Regional Arts Facilities

Debate between Lord Bassam of Brighton and Lord Parkinson of Whitley Bay
Wednesday 27th March 2024

(1 month, 4 weeks ago)

Lords Chamber
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Lord Parkinson of Whitley Bay Portrait Lord Parkinson of Whitley Bay (Con)
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The noble Earl is right to point to the importance of partnership working. The Government are very proud to have contributed towards the museum in Perth and the new home for the Stone of Scone—I hope that the opening tomorrow goes well. In the Budget, we also joined the Welsh Government and Flintshire county council in supporting Theatr Clwyd, which does important work not just in north Wales but in the north-west of England. I had the pleasure of visiting the theatre and seeing the renovation that has been done there. Through both the levelling up fund and the UK shared prosperity fund, the UK Government are playing their part in helping arts and culture in every part of the United Kingdom.

Lord Bassam of Brighton Portrait Lord Bassam of Brighton (Lab)
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My Lords, I know the Minister supports Labour’s view of a positive approach to the arts and to culture. The UK originates blockbuster films; it is one of only three net exporters of music; we are the second-largest advertising supporter and the largest book exporter; and the cultural sector, as the Minister well knows, supports 2.5 million jobs and is worth £125 billion. Yet, in 2021, the Government said that arts subjects were not a strategic priority. Given that culture is one of our most dynamic and growing sectors, is this still official Government policy? If it is, will the Minister commit to reviewing and reversing this damaging and neglectful approach to our arts and cultural industries?

Lord Parkinson of Whitley Bay Portrait Lord Parkinson of Whitley Bay (Con)
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The noble Lord is absolutely right to point to the importance of arts and culture to our economy, as well as our society. It is one of the Chancellor’s five priority areas for the economy, and that was reflected in the Budget through the tax reliefs and through the direct investment that was made. He is also right to talk about the importance of cultural education, so that we can unleash the talents of everybody and make sure that future generations have the ability to join, enjoy and pursue a lifetime in arts and culture. That is why I am delighted that the noble Baroness, Lady Bull, is helping lead the advisory panel to inform our new cultural education plan, working jointly with DCMS and the Department for Education.

Digital Markets, Competition and Consumers Bill

Debate between Lord Bassam of Brighton and Lord Parkinson of Whitley Bay
Lord Bassam of Brighton Portrait Lord Bassam of Brighton (Lab)
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My Lords, this has been a fascinating and illuminating series of speeches on the potential foreign ownership of UK news titles, particularly the Telegraph and the Spectator, by RedBird IMI. I echo the words of the noble Baroness, Lady Stowell: this is a much larger issue than that newspaper group. There is a fundamental principle involved here, which is why all sides of the House wanted to rally round the issue.

We have witnessed not only the magical transformation of the noble Lord, Lord Forsyth, from agent provocateur, but the Government moving at a speed we would welcome elsewhere in public policy; it is something to behold for the future. We have come to understand better just how complicated the terms of international trade are and how careful we need to be when legislating to prevent the law of unintended circumstances kicking in.

Protecting the freedom of the press—and our politics—from foreign state interference is an important issue. That is why we supported the calls for government action, an issue I raised in January, and for decisive intervention. As I carefully explained to your Lordships’ House last week, we supported the spirit of the amendment tabled by the noble Baroness, Lady Stowell, but not its detail. We on these Benches were genuinely concerned about security and the need to have a more comprehensive solution to the difficulties the Government face in tackling this issue. We can fairly say that those concerns have been more than adequately met with 16 pages of complex legislation, drafted magically by lawyers working at great pace; I congratulate them on that, and the officials in the Box. In particular, I congratulate the noble Baroness, Lady Stowell, and the noble Lord, Lord Forsyth, on his advocacy for this issue and his intelligence; both have applied pressure to secure a desirable outcome.

Most of the questions I wanted to ask have already been put, but I do have a few concerns, some of which have already been rehearsed in part. First, does the exemption referenced in the amendment cover just passive investments, and what would that mean in this context? Secondly, does it fully cover sovereign wealth funds and pension funds held by them, and what is their relationship with banks? Will there be a capping regime, and what will its thresholds be? Thirdly, will there be a 100% block on foreign state ownership, notwithstanding the 5% threshold the noble Baroness, Lady Stowell, mentioned? What action can the Minister spell out for us on online publications such as the Independent and online-only magazine titles? I liked the suggestion from the noble Lord, Lord Faulks, that this might be picked up in the Media Bill. Whether the Media Bill will enable that, given its long title et cetera, is obviously a question for the clerks, but one that we should certainly ask.

We on these Benches have been more than happy to lend our support to this issue because of the importance in our political landscape of protecting a free and independent press that is not handcuffed by our state. On such issues, it is vital that there is cross-party unanimity. I am sure that noble Lords opposite will, in the future, want to do all they can to protect the integrity of that position, should a paper perceived to be of a different political colour come under a similar threat, whenever that might be. With that said, we await the Minister’s reply to the questions asked, which need a response. I congratulate all those concerned on bringing this difficult situation to a happy conclusion.

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 support for these amendments and the work undertaken. I thank my noble friend Lady Stowell for commending the work of Julia Lopez, the media Minister, and indeed the department and the officials more broadly. My noble friend also acknowledged the specific quasi-judicial role of the Secretary of State in her ongoing determination of the case before her, but acknowledged that she obviously has a role in all this. On the broader question of media mergers, my right honourable friend the Secretary of State of course remains very much involved as well, but I thank my noble friend for her appreciation for both. I agree with my noble friend Lord Forsyth in his praise for the civil servants who worked thoroughly and quickly on this matter, including over Mother’s Day weekend. I am grateful for that recognition.

My noble friend Lord Forsyth rightly pointed out that he has not moved since tabling his regret amendment to the Media Bill. The Government have made explicit and put beyond doubt what was implicit and possible in the existing regime, as I set out on Report. We are very happy to take the opportunity to do that clearly, in the way that we do through these amendments, and, indeed, to set out now the new lower threshold. My noble friend Lady Stowell is right: we will set it at 5%, which is considerably lower than the existing threshold. I am glad that my noble friend welcomes that. She is right in the characterisation of what I said: anyone blocked at what she calls stage 1—the new automatic block on foreign state investment—will not be able to be exempted at what she calls stage 2. She is right, as well, to make the distinction between foreign investment and foreign state investment, and to make it clear, as I was very happy to, that the UK remains open for business. This is a discrete area and an important one in our national life, which is why we are acting in the way we have.

My noble friend Lord Faulks and the noble Lord, Lord Bassam, asked about the role of banks. We do not think that, in the ordinary course of events, debt and debt refinancing from foreign banks which have a state interest should be captured, unless the structure of the transaction gives rise to concerns about influence. We are considering precisely how debt and debt refinancing should be treated in cases where the structure of debt may give rise to concerns about foreign state investment organisations. But as I say, as we bring these provisions forward in secondary legislation, I am very happy to continue conversations with noble Lords and, indeed, to have conversations with those who will be directly affected.

My noble friend Lord Faulks invited me to set out what we are doing in consulting shortly on expanding the existing media mergers regime and the foreign state ownership provisions, to include online news websites. That will enable us to make changes that ensure that online news, whether from an established newspaper group or an online publisher, is covered by the media regime and the new measures we are introducing for foreign state media ownership.

The Secretary of State will maintain a quasi-judicial role in media mergers. The public interest regime will remain as it is, but we are adding a new parallel foreign state intervention regime. The Secretary of State will not have discretion under that; she will have to follow the report of the Competition and Markets Authority, both on whether there is a foreign state merger and an exemption. She would need to lay an order before Parliament to block a transaction, which would be under the negative procedure. We will debate what I have announced in the provisions that we will bring forward after Royal Assent, setting out an exemption for investments where the stake is below 5%, and noble Lords will have the opportunity to scrutinise that under the affirmative procedure.

I am grateful to noble Lords who have engaged with us and our officials in recent days as we work on these amendments. I am glad that they have your Lordships’ support. I beg to move.

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Lord Bassam of Brighton Portrait Lord Bassam of Brighton (Lab)
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Can the Minister also clarify the point about online publications? Will these be included within the statutory instrument?

Lord Parkinson of Whitley Bay Portrait Lord Parkinson of Whitley Bay (Con)
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We will shortly consult on expanding the existing media mergers to look at online. The new regime will not cover TV and radio broadcasts at this time, but we will continue to consider that in our broader work on the media mergers regime. As my noble friend Lord Lansley pointed out, there are specific additional protections through the regime to which they are subject under Ofcom.

My noble friend Lord Forsyth rightly asks when we will bring in the secondary legislation. We want to do it after Royal Assent of this Bill, which is in the control of Parliament, not just the Government. Officials are working on it already. I cannot commit to a date for its introduction, but I am happy to commit to continuing our conversations as we work on it and before we introduce it after Royal Assent.

Digital Markets, Competition and Consumers Bill

Debate between Lord Bassam of Brighton and Lord Parkinson of Whitley Bay
Lord Bassam of Brighton Portrait Lord Bassam of Brighton (Lab)
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My Lords, in order to help, can we be absolutely clear that this covers minority ownership and control? We need clarity on that. The noble Lord, Lord Moore, made that point. It would help the House for the avoidance of doubt.

Lord Parkinson of Whitley Bay Portrait Lord Parkinson of Whitley Bay (Con)
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The noble Lords have intervened at a helpful point, because I was about to outline that we want to ensure that the new measures do not have undesired effects on wider foreign business investment in the UK media, or on purely passive investments made by established investment funds.

In the amendment we will bring forward at Third Reading, it will be necessary to take a power to make secondary legislation to set out two points clearly: first, what limited types of established investment funds we mean, which could be split out of the general prohibition on foreign state ownership provided for by this regime; secondly, the very low threshold up to which they may be permitted to invest, which we intend to be considerably lower than the current thresholds for material influence in the Enterprise Act.

As we bring this forward ahead of Third Reading, we would be very happy to discuss the drafting with noble Lords before it is tabled so that we can discuss the detail. We will set that out in the provisions at Third Reading.

Media Bill

Debate between Lord Bassam of Brighton and Lord Parkinson of Whitley Bay
Lord Parkinson of Whitley Bay Portrait Lord Parkinson of Whitley Bay (Con)
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We have set up the review because there are important questions to consider, and it is worth considering them properly. As I say, there is a complexity here in striking the right balance. The review is looking into that and more, and from it may flow some suggestions for necessary changes in the law. It is right that we complete the review and look at that picture in the round. As I say, I am sure we will touch on this in Committee, and there are emerging areas which noble Lords will want to press, but we think it is right to complete the review, which is a logical consequence of setting it up.

The Government are also keen to ensure that sporting events are made available for the public as widely as possible. That is why we have the listed events regime. We acknowledge the interest that fans have in watching our sporting teams compete. It is important, again, that that regime continues to strike the right balance between accessibility and the ability of sporting organisations to generate revenues, so that they can invest in sports at all levels. We believe that the current list of events works well to deliver the right outcome and that it strikes an appropriate balance, so we have no plans to review the list at this time.

My noble friend Lord Bethell spoke about the importance of age ratings for television content, and we are in complete agreement on the need to protect children and other vulnerable audiences from harmful and inappropriate video-on-demand content to which they might be exposed. As people move to a digital world, so must our regulation change. That is why, for the first time, we are bringing mainstream TV-like on-demand services in scope of the new video-on-demand code. That will be drafted and enforced by Ofcom, which has a long track record of regulating broadcast television to ensure that it is age appropriate, and protects those who may be more deeply affected by what they see or hear. In addition to creating this new code, the Bill gives Ofcom new powers through its audience protection review duty, so that it can provide guidance and report on and deal with any providers it considers are not providing adequate protections.

Taken together, these changes mean that the on-demand streamers will no longer be marking their own homework; that, rightly, will be for Ofcom to assess and do. The British Board of Film Classification, which my noble friend mentioned, does a fine job and the Government encourage all services to consider using it when reaching decisions. However, it is not the only source of effective child protection. Many streamers, including our public service broadcasters, for example, have very effective child protection measures in place and do not use BBFC age ratings. We do not want inadvertently to discourage services from investing in, developing and using the most effective child protection technology that is available and becomes available, which includes but is not limited to age ratings. The Government’s overriding goal here is to ensure that effective protection is in place as the outcome, rather than specifying from the top down how that should be done.

The measures in the Bill will ensure that all streamers are given the incentive to place child protection at the heart of their product development, rather than just relying on the regulator to tell them what the bare minimum is they can get away with. For example, protections such as parental controls and warnings, in addition to age ratings, can be more effective than any individual age-rating system. However, we are listening to what my noble friend and others are saying and have been listening to the debate in another place as well, and we look forward to continuing to debate these issues as the Bill progresses.

My noble friend Lord Black of Brentwood raised concerns about the risk of complaints tourism arising as a result of Ofcom’s regulation of video-on-demand services. As with existing broadcasting regulation, how these rules are implemented would be for Ofcom to set out. However, to be clear, Ofcom will be regulating only on-demand providers’ UK libraries. In addition, following feedback from providers during pre-legislative scrutiny, we have already considered the issue of complaints tourism. The Bill now ensures that Ofcom will be able to consider the length of time that content has been available when considering complaints, which will reduce mischievous accusations. However, this is not new territory. Ofcom has a long history as an international regulator, and we have full confidence that it has the expertise and powers to deal appropriately with complaints of this nature.

More broadly, noble Lords rightly asked about the additional responsibilities Ofcom has taken on in recent years. As they know from our exchanges on the Online Safety Act, the Government are invested in Ofcom, which has taken on many more staff to cover its additional responsibilities. We are confident that it has the capability and resources it needs. Like others, I am very grateful that the noble Lord, Lord Grade of Yarmouth, attended our debate on the Bill today. Ofcom will continue to be accountable to Parliament. The Bill extends its powers in areas it has much experience in regulating. My department has worked closely with Ofcom throughout the drafting process. As I said in my opening speech, we are very grateful for the contribution it has made.

I am grateful to some—not all—noble Lords for expressing support for the repeal of Section 40 of the Crime and Courts Act. Views differ on this across your Lordships’ House but, as I said, this is a government manifesto commitment. We worry that commencing Section 40 would risk creating a chilling effect on freedom of speech, undermining high quality journalism and causing serious damage to local newspapers. The Government consulted on repeal in 2016. A huge majority of respondents, some 79%, including press freedom organisations such as Reporters Without Borders, backed repealing Section 40, many arguing that it could have stopped publishers undertaking valuable investigative journalism or publishing stories critical of individuals, for fear of being taken to court and having to pay for both sides. However, I look forward to the further debates that I am sure we will have.

The noble Lord, Lord Stevenson, asked about the Press Regulation Panel. As he knows, that was established through a royal charter on the self-regulation of the press in 2013, which is separate from the Crime and Courts Act 2013. The repeal of Section 40 will not affect the Press Regulation Panel. Any press regulator can apply to be recognised by the panel. The panel will continue to recognise, review and report on Impress. It can also recognise other press regulators, should they choose to apply.

My noble friend Lord Astor asked how we can prevent strategic lawsuits against public participation if we repeal Section 40. If enacted, Section 40 would protect only news publishers which are members of an approved regulator. SLAPPs typically target individuals instead of their employers and can target people other than journalists, including consumers, tenants or victims of sexual assault. Many SLAPPs never reach court as their intention is to silence people before the case is pursued. As I hope my noble friend knows, the Government are taking broad action against SLAPPs to create a changed culture and raise awareness of them, alongside legislative change. The task force on SLAPPs that we established published its workplan in December, outlining action from government as well as from media and legal organisations to tackle SLAPPs. The Economic Crime and Corporate Transparency Act, which received Royal Assent in October, includes measures to tackle economic crime-related SLAPPs, which we believe represent up to 70% of all these lawsuits. The Government are also supporting a Private Member’s Bill introduced in another place by Wayne David MP, Second Reading of which was last Friday. It has cross-party support, and we will update the measures in the 2023 Act to cover a broader scope, blocking SLAPPs across all types of litigation.

I am conscious that I am reaching the end of my time, so I will turn finally to the amendment moved by the noble Lord, Lord Forsyth. The noble Lord, Lord Bassam, asked whether a meeting with the Secretary of State might be possible. As he will appreciate, at the moment she is acting in a quasi-judicial capacity in relation to this matter, so she is very restricted in what she can say. A meeting would not therefore be helpful. However, I and other Ministers have kept your Lordships’ House and the other place updated as much as we are able to while that legal process unfurls. I pointed in—

Lord Bassam of Brighton Portrait Lord Bassam of Brighton (Lab)
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Does the Minister have a sense of the timetable for this review to be completed?

Lord Parkinson of Whitley Bay Portrait Lord Parkinson of Whitley Bay (Con)
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If I may, I will point the noble Lord to the answers we have given which set out some of the timelines; there are different timelines under the different Acts and the work that Ofcom and the Competition and Markets Authority do. I will set them out, rather than try to give them off the top of my head, but I have answered questions from this Dispatch Box before and will continue to do that and through Written Questions where possible.

I pointed my noble friend Lord Forsyth to the Enterprise Act and the National Security and Investment Act, which cover the actions available to the Secretary of State, including where she has concerns about media freedom and freedom of expression. As my noble friend indicated, his lively discussions with the Public Bill Office and his resorting to this regret amendment reflect that this is not a matter for this Bill, but, as the contribution from our noble friend Lady Stowell of Beeston showed, she has had more success with tabling an amendment to the Digital Markets, Competition and Consumers Bill. I would certainly encourage them both to continue their conversations with my noble friends Lord Camrose and Lord Offord of Garvel.

Telegraph Media Group: Proposed Sale to RedBird IMI

Debate between Lord Bassam of Brighton and Lord Parkinson of Whitley Bay
Wednesday 31st January 2024

(3 months, 3 weeks ago)

Lords Chamber
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Lord Bassam of Brighton Portrait Lord Bassam of Brighton (Lab)
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My Lords, I find myself in the somewhat novel position of fiercely defending the interests of the Telegraph newspaper group and the Spectator in the interests of press freedom.

There was a fairly remarkable debate in the Commons yesterday because, on a Question about transparency and protecting democracy, the Minister’s answer was mainly that she could not answer any questions. I must gently say that this questioning is not designed to trip Ministers up; these are serious concerns, put forward thoughtfully by Members of all parties right across the House. I therefore hope the Minister will be able to answer two of those questions today. First, can the Minister point to any existing examples of a nation state with “differing media values”—as the chair of the Foreign Affairs Committee delicately put it yesterday—acquiring a major newspaper of another country? Secondly, and in the light of the proposed sale, do His Majesty’s Government have any plans to review existing rules on media ownership, and if not, does the Minister think they should?

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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I am grateful to the noble Lord for his questions and welcome him to the ranks of Telegraph and Spectator readers—I hope he will enjoy what he sees in their pages. He will understand that the Secretary of State is acting in a quasi-judicial capacity following the provisions laid out in the Enterprise Act 2002. She is considering whether mergers raise media public interest concerns. She has issued public interest intervention notices, reflecting the concerns that she continues to have that there may be public interest considerations in this case: the

“accurate presentation of news; and … free expression of opinion”

as set out in Section 58 of the Enterprise Act, which are relevant to this planned acquisition. I hope the noble Lord will understand that, as she is acting in a quasi-judicial capacity, it is essential that she does not take into account, and that there be no perception that she has taken or is taking into account, any political or presentational considerations. I therefore find myself in the same position as my honourable friend Julia Lopez in another place yesterday in being limited in what I can say while that quasi-judicial process unfurls.

BBC: Funding

Debate between Lord Bassam of Brighton and Lord Parkinson of Whitley Bay
Wednesday 17th January 2024

(4 months, 1 week ago)

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Lord Parkinson of Whitley Bay Portrait Lord Parkinson of Whitley Bay (Con)
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I wholeheartedly agree with the noble Lord. The creative industries were growing twice as quickly as the economy overall before the pandemic. That is why, as part of the creative industry sector vision, we are looking to turbocharge that growth and why the creative industries are one of the Chancellor’s five priority areas for our economy. The noble Lord is also right to point to the importance of our public service broadcasters. I watched the third part of “Mr Bates vs The Post Office” last night on ITVX. It is a shining example of how the arts and creative industries can shine light on important issues facing society, and long may that continue.

Lord Bassam of Brighton Portrait Lord Bassam of Brighton (Lab)
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My Lords, during Monday’s BBC Question, references were made to the threats posed by disinformation and, in particular, the value of the BBC, which is seen as a trusted provider of news both at home and abroad. The Minister said that it was

“a beacon that shines brightly around the world”.—[Official Report, 15/1/24; col. 222.]

With that in mind, does he welcome the recent launch and gradual scaling-up of BBC Verify? Does he agree that the Government could greatly assist this new team by improving their own presentation of political events and official statistics?

Lord Parkinson of Whitley Bay Portrait Lord Parkinson of Whitley Bay (Con)
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That is fitting for a Question begun by the noble Lord, Lord Morse. The noble Lord, Lord Bassam, is right. So many of the world’s democracies go to the polls this year, and this is an issue which will face broadcasters, but the BBC particularly, both at home and through the World Service, does a brilliant job at making sure that the claims of politicians—wherever they are in the world, whatever party they come from—are rightly scrutinised and that people are informed so that they can make decisions about the societies and countries in which they live.

Loot Boxes in Video Games

Debate between Lord Bassam of Brighton and Lord Parkinson of Whitley Bay
Wednesday 13th December 2023

(5 months, 1 week ago)

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Lord Parkinson of Whitley Bay Portrait Lord Parkinson of Whitley Bay (Con)
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I am not, but I shall take my noble friend’s very good question back to the gambling team at the department and encourage it to make sure that we are pursuing research that will add to our understanding of the implications for all age groups.

Lord Bassam of Brighton Portrait Lord Bassam of Brighton (Lab)
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My Lords, whether it is the two-year gap between the Government’s call for evidence and their response, or the further year-long wait for the games industry to announce guidelines, efforts to tackle child access to loot boxes and other in-game features with gambling-like features have been far too slow, in our view. Like others, we hope that voluntary arrangements will work, but if they do not, can the Minister confirm whether the Government have a specific regulatory approach in mind? If so, how long might implementation take?

Lord Parkinson of Whitley Bay Portrait Lord Parkinson of Whitley Bay (Con)
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We think the industry-led guidance on loot boxes has the potential, if fully implemented, to improve protections and to meet the Government’s objectives. We expect the games industry to implement the guidance in full and we will monitor that carefully. If the industry is unable to meet our objectives, there are a range of options that the Government may consider, but we would like to see how they bed in first.

Dormant Assets (Distribution of Money) (England) Order 2023

Debate between Lord Bassam of Brighton and Lord Parkinson of Whitley Bay
Tuesday 24th October 2023

(7 months ago)

Grand Committee
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Lord Bassam of Brighton Portrait Lord Bassam of Brighton (Lab)
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My Lords, like everybody else, I am grateful to the Minister for the way in which he introduced this. It is a short SI. That has not stopped noble Lords this afternoon asking a plenitude of questions, but all of them are highly relevant. Many of them are repeats from when we discussed the Bill back in 2021-22, but they are nevertheless highly relevant today.

This is of huge importance to community organisations and individuals who will benefit from the funding. I thought that the testimony of the noble Baroness, Lady Ritchie, was very good on that point because she gave very good examples of the benefits of using the funds in the way in which they are used. I am sure that the Minister will fondly remember his many hours taking the Bill through the House; I have a feeling that it was his first Committee, and he did it very well and with tact and skill.

During the passage of the Bill, we had a lot of discussion about the potential inclusion of community wealth funds as beneficiaries of the dormant asset moneys. In the best tradition of the Lords, there was cross-party support, including in particular from the noble Lord, Lord Hodgson of Astley Abbotts, the now-retired Bishop of Newcastle, and, speaking on her behalf, the right reverend Prelate the Bishop of Ely. That collaboration gave rise, as I recall, to an amendment that many of us signed, which led to a shift in the position of the Government. It was initially resisted by the Minister, who stressed that

“current evidence for community wealth funds, as well as concrete designs for how they would operate, are relatively sparse”.

He did, however, go on to say that

“there is more work to be done in this area before a commitment can firmly be made”. [Official Report, 16/11/21; col. 177.]

In a refreshing break from tradition, the Government have followed through with their promise. I congratulate them on that, because it is a very important and significant one.

Based on the outcomes of their consultation, which saw 71% of respondents agree or strongly agree that community wealth funds should be included as a cause for dormant assets, they have rightly included them on the list in this instrument. This is, without doubt, a very exciting time for those involved in the creation and scaling up of community wealth funds. However, the Minister will know that some in the sector are concerned by the direction indicated in the recent technical consultation document published jointly by DCMS and DLUHC. We understand the need to build the evidence base for community wealth funds. Limiting their work to smaller towns of fewer than 20,000 people appears counterintuitive to us—I will not say counterproductive. Some of the most deprived areas across our country have populations larger than 20,000, yet for a variety of reasons they lack the type of social infrastructure that these funds could provide. The noble Lord, Lord Hodgson, gave a very good case example of where that sort of community capacity can be missing.

Yes, we need to build the evidence base for community wealth funds over time, but I hope the department will consider whether this rather arbitrary threshold is wise. If the pilots are run in the wrong areas or to the wrong criteria, we may never see an accurate picture of the role these funds can play in improving communities and people’s lives and livelihoods. Will the department reflect further on this? This design principle is not even subject to consultation, and I think that needs to be given some urgent thought. At the least, we would like to see the Minister prepared to welcome views on the point and the issue.

While we are glad that community wealth funds have been named as a cause, we are equally pleased to see the existing three causes keep their place in the list. Dormant assets have funded a variety of important services for young people and those with debt or financial inclusion issues, which the Minister referenced. It is vital that their work is able to continue, particularly at a time where our economy continues to struggle and inflation remains a problem for people up and down the country. The Minister will be familiar with the work of organisations such as Big Society Capital, Local Trust and so on, that fall under the third category on the list. As I am sure the Minister is well aware, Big Society Capital has come up with a community enterprise growth plan, which aims to put dormant asset funds to even better use by leveraging additional private capital and multiply the impact that the initial investment generates. While I understand that the Minister will not be able to announce individual allocations today, will he commit to looking closely at least at that plan?

Some questions will remain over elements of the Government’s approach, but we are generally pleased to support this SI. As I have already noted, there is cross-party support for the scheme, and we should harness that energy. At the same time, there are legitimate concerns over particular aspects of the policy. Ministers like to talk about levelling up but, despite the fantastic work of social enterprises across the country, it is not clear that we are yet seeing it on the ground. With that in mind, I hope the Minster can commit to further discussions in the months to come.

For me, the dormant assets scheme is an original great Labour success story. It started in 2008 and was authored by Gordon Brown. The current Government have taken it a stage further and broadened the range of options for paying into that fund. It has put millions of pounds to good use around the country. We are happy to support the expansion of the asset categories through the 2022 Act. Once the finer details have been ironed out, we hope that even more will soon go to good causes.

A number of questions that colleagues asked were particularly important, such as on additionality. Ensuring the restoration of money to the right place is important. The size of the reserve fund seems questionable. We must ensure that we get the right distribution of funds and that they deliver additionality, rather than just paying for things that would otherwise be paid for by government programmes through local government.

This has been an impressive and useful debate. I hope this is an issue that we can keep at the forefront of the House’s consideration. Perhaps we could return to the point about monitoring and analysing the impact at some stage in some form or other. It might be the sort of thing that could be the subject of a Lords’ report, because this is an exciting opportunity. It is all about building capacity, providing opportunities and getting funds to communities that most require them.

Lord Parkinson of Whitley Bay Portrait Lord Parkinson of Whitley Bay (Con)
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I certainly agree with the noble Lord, Lord Bassam of Brighton, that this has been an important and useful debate. I am very grateful to all noble Lords who have contributed to it. I am grateful to the noble Baroness, Lady Ritchie of Downpatrick, and her fellow members of the Joint Committee on Statutory Instruments for the work they have done in this regard. I reassure her that we do indeed want this scheme to continue long into the future. The expansion of the dormant assets scheme is expected to unlock a further £738 million for England alongside the almost £1 billion which has already been unlocked, as I mentioned in my opening contribution. We are committed to ensuring the success of this expansion so that ample funding can be distributed across the four causes. That is what the primary legislation—the 2022 Act—and the secondary legislation intend to promote and protect.

I can also reassure the noble Lords, Lord Davies of Brixton and Lord Addington, and other noble Lords who underlined the importance of the additionality principle that it will be adhered to. Ensuring additionality is an essential criterion of the dormant assets scheme. The Government are committed to ensuring that a community wealth fund is designed and delivered in a way which does not replace or undercut central or local government funding. We specifically sought views on how to embed the principle of additionality in the design of a community wealth fund in the technical consultation, which closed on 19 October and which we are working our way through at the moment. That will include ensuring that any interventions provided to communities to support their decision-making will exclude statutory duties. We will work with the National Lottery Community Fund as the main distributor. Lottery funds are also subject to the additionality principle, so the National Lottery Community Fund already has its own policies and practices in place to maintain that important principle.

The noble Lord, Lord Davies, asked about the pensions dashboard. Ensuring that efforts are made to reunite dormant assets funding with its rightful owner remains the first priority of the scheme. A number of ongoing initiatives are aimed at preventing pension assets reaching dormancy, including pensions dashboards, which will enable people to access their information online, securely and all in one place.

Commonwealth Games

Debate between Lord Bassam of Brighton and Lord Parkinson of Whitley Bay
Thursday 7th September 2023

(8 months, 2 weeks ago)

Lords Chamber
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Lord Parkinson of Whitley Bay Portrait Lord Parkinson of Whitley Bay (Con)
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The Governments of Alberta and Victoria have cited cost as a reason for their decision. That is curious in the light of Birmingham’s experience, where the Games came in £70 million under budget and the Government gave that money to the West Midlands Combined Authority to spend on a variety of important initiatives, including cultural and sporting ones, in that part of the UK. So it is possible to deliver a Games that everyone can enjoy, as they did in Birmingham, on time and on budget, and we are very happy to share the lessons of Birmingham’s successful hosting with those who might want to bid. My right honourable friend the Sports Minister has been speaking to the federation about learning those lessons.

Lord Bassam of Brighton Portrait Lord Bassam of Brighton (Lab)
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My Lords, this has happened a few times before. Can the Minister ensure that His Majesty’s Government do more to facilitate discussions on the future direction of the competition? Does it need to be reinvented somehow or does more thought need to be given to reducing the costs to hosts? Would it perhaps be more sustainable if the frequency of the Games was varied to match economic needs? Thinking about my own city, which has finally entered the Europa League this year, there are clear economic benefits demonstrated from hosting events like that. Are the Government doing enough to promote participation in wider international sporting competitions so that we can reap the benefit of the economic boost they bring to our country?

Lord Parkinson of Whitley Bay Portrait Lord Parkinson of Whitley Bay (Con)
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Yes, we fully recognise the important economic boost that hosting major sporting events can bring. Sport is estimated to be worth over £38 billion a year to our economy. The hosting of the women’s Euros in 2022 generated economic activity of £81 million across the eight host cities that welcomed visitors and supported 1,200 full-time equivalent jobs. It also saw a 140% increase in participation among girls in the season after the tournament—so the benefits are manifold. The Commonwealth Games Federation is exploring all options to secure the long-term viability of the Commonwealth Games. It has committed to putting a firmer plan in place by the time of its general assembly in November.

Football Matches: Violence

Debate between Lord Bassam of Brighton and Lord Parkinson of Whitley Bay
Wednesday 14th June 2023

(11 months, 2 weeks ago)

Lords Chamber
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Lord Bassam of Brighton Portrait Lord Bassam of Brighton
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To ask His Majesty’s Government what assessment they have made of concerns expressed by the Professional Footballers’ Association about violent incidents at football matches; and what consideration they are giving to strengthening (1) stewarding, (2) policing, and (3) other legal powers, to protect professional footballers and football club staff.

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, the safety of everyone at sporting events is of paramount importance to His Majesty’s Government. Stewards play an integral role in ensuring that safety, and the Sports Grounds Safety Authority is working to improve the quality of stewarding at football matches. The police and courts have a wide range of powers to protect footballers and club staff, including the use of football banning orders, which can now be applied to a wider range of offences thanks to recent changes made by the Government.

Lord Bassam of Brighton Portrait Lord Bassam of Brighton (Lab)
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My Lords, this year’s EFL play-off semi-finals and final provided huge drama. The FA Cup had the first ever Manchester derby and the fastest ever cup final goal. However, despite multiple announcements in advance of full time, pitch invasions by fans were commonplace, putting players, staff and officials at risk. I have raised football disorder several times at the Dispatch Box. While I accept that Ministers alone cannot solve this, we need signs of progress. I remind the Minister that we are bidding, with Ireland, to hold the 2028 Euro championships. Will the Minister commit to using his off season productively to meet governing bodies and clubs to identify possible ways forward?

Lord Parkinson of Whitley Bay Portrait Lord Parkinson of Whitley Bay (Con)
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It is an offence under Section 4 of the Football (Offences) Act 1991 for a person at a designated football match to go on to the playing area. Anyone found guilty of unlawfully doing so can be fined or can have a court preventive football banning order imposed on them. As I say, we have strengthened the football banning orders, and we keep these important matters under review. My department commissioned the Sports Grounds Safety Authority to conduct research into the long-term sustainability of stewarding. It is now working with football’s governing bodies and others to identify the challenges that it identified in its research. It has refined guidance and issued fact sheets to the football authorities. We keep these matters under review, including, as the noble Lord rightly reminds us, as we pursue our bid for Euro 2028.

Online Safety Bill

Debate between Lord Bassam of Brighton and Lord Parkinson of Whitley Bay
Lord Parkinson of Whitley Bay Portrait Lord Parkinson of Whitley Bay (Con)
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Yes, and as I say, I am happy to talk with the noble Lord about this in greater detail. Under the Bill, category 1 companies will have a new duty to safeguard all journalistic content on their platform, which includes citizen journalism. But I will have to take all these points forward with him in our further discussions.

My noble friend Lord Bethell is not here to move his Amendment 220D, which would allow Ofcom to designate online safety regulatory duties under this legislation to other bodies. We have previously discussed a similar issue relating to the Internet Watch Foundation, so I shall not repeat the points that we have already made.

On the amendments on supposedly gendered language in relation to Ofcom advisory committees in Clauses 139 and 155, I appreciate the intention to make it clear that a person of either sex should be able to perform the role of chairman. The Bill uses the term “chairman” to be consistent with the terminology in the Office of Communications Act 2002, and we are confident that this will have no bearing on Ofcom’s decision-making on who will chair the advisory committees that it must establish, just as, I am sure, the noble Lord’s Amendment 56 does not seek to be restrictive about who might be an “ombudsman”.

I appreciate the intention of Amendment 262 from the noble Baroness, Lady Bennett of Manor Castle. It is indeed vital that the review reflects the experience of young people. Clause 159 provides for a review to be undertaken by the Secretary of State, and published and laid before Parliament, to assess the effectiveness of the regulatory framework. There is nothing in the existing legislation that would preclude seeking the views of young people either as part of an advisory group or in other ways. Moreover, the Secretary of State is required to consult Ofcom and other persons she considers appropriate. In relation to young people specifically, it may be that a number of different approaches will be effective—for example, consulting experts or representative groups on children’s experiences online. That could include people of all ages. The regulatory framework is designed to protect all users online, and it is right that we take into account the full spectrum of views from people who experience harms, whatever their age and background, through a consultation process that balances all their interests.

Amendment 268AA from the noble Lord, Lord Bassam, relates to reporting requirements for online abuse and harassment, including where this is racially motivated—an issue we have discussed in Questions and particularly in relation to sport. His amendment would place an additional requirement on all service providers, even those not in scope of the Bill. The Bill’s scope extends only to user-to-user and search services. It has been designed in this way to tackle the risk of harm to users where it is highest. Bringing additional companies in scope would dilute the efforts of the legislation in this important regard.

Clauses 16 and 26 already require companies to set up systems and processes that allow users easily to report illegal content, including illegal online abuse and harassment. This amendment would therefore duplicate this existing requirement. It also seeks to create an additional requirement for companies to report illegal online abuse and harassment to the Crown Prosecution Service. The Bill does not place requirements on in-scope companies to report their investigations into crimes that occur online, other than child exploitation and abuse. This is because the Bill aims to prevent and reduce the proliferation of illegal material and the resulting harm it causes to so many. Additionally, Ofcom will be able to require companies to report on the incidence of illegal content on their platforms in its transparency reports, as well as the steps they are taking to tackle that content.

I hope that reassures the noble Lord that the Bill intends to address the problems he has outlined and those explored in the exchange with the noble Lord, Lord Clement-Jones. With that, I hope that noble Lords will support the government amendments in this group and be satisfied not to press theirs at this point.

Lord Bassam of Brighton Portrait Lord Bassam of Brighton (Lab)
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My Lords, I listened very carefully to the Minister’s response to both my amendments. He has gone some way to satisfying my concerns. I listened carefully to the concerns of the noble Baroness, Lady Fox, and noble Lords on the Lib Dem Benches. I am obviously content to withdraw my amendment.

I do not quite agree with the Minister’s point about dilution on the last amendment—I see it as strengthening —but I accept that the amendments themselves slightly stretch the purport of this element of the legislation. I shall review the Minister’s comments and I suspect that I shall be satisfied with what he said.

UK Concussion Guidelines for Grass-roots Sport

Debate between Lord Bassam of Brighton and Lord Parkinson of Whitley Bay
Wednesday 3rd May 2023

(1 year ago)

Lords Chamber
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Lord Bassam of Brighton Portrait Lord Bassam of Brighton (Lab)
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My Lords, we on these Benches strongly welcome this guidance and hope the Government will ensure that anyone suffering from a head injury is able to get swift access to the treatment and continuing support that they need. In the Commons yesterday, the Minister said he was “sure” that his Department of Health and Social Care colleagues would make announcements “in due course”. I wonder whether the Minister can be any more specific on timings today.

The introduction of concussion protocols in many elite sports has undoubtedly helped increase awareness of the subject, but we sometimes see players ignore the advice of medical professionals and attempt to play on. Indeed, I remember my son as a teenager being fouled and a penalty being given, and he was badly concussed. He was determined to take the penalty spot kick, and his mother and I had to wrestle him off the pitch.

We know that these things are important, so does the Minister agree that governing bodies need to keep their own protocols under review and that players themselves should be mindful of their status as role models? What more do the Government plan to do to ensure that this advice gets the profile it needs at all levels of sporting endeavour? These are important moves forward, and we broadly welcome them.

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, I am grateful to the noble Lord for the support of the party opposite. World-leading experts have informed this guidance and it is important that we give it to the many people who are engaged in recreational sport across the country. The example that the noble Lord gives from his own family is illustrative of the issues that we need to make people aware of, so that people can intervene where needed and make sure that there is support for those who require it.

As my right honourable friend the Sports Minister said yesterday in another place, he has committed to continuing to work with his colleagues in the Department of Health and Social Care to ensure that the relevant advice is given to people, including those who want to contact the NHS through the 111 service. Many health experts from lots of sporting backgrounds have been involved in the preparation of this advice.

The noble Lord is right to point to the role of financial governing bodies in disseminating the advice that is appropriate in the context of their sports. Last year the English and Scottish Football Associations banned heading the ball in training for primary school-age children, an example of work that has been taken on. We are working with national governing bodies to make sure that the guidance is disseminated to everyone who needs to see it.

Music Industry

Debate between Lord Bassam of Brighton and Lord Parkinson of Whitley Bay
Monday 17th April 2023

(1 year, 1 month ago)

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Lord Parkinson of Whitley Bay Portrait Lord Parkinson of Whitley Bay (Con)
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My Lords, 23 of the 27 member states of the EU already offer visa- and work permit-free routes for touring artists from the UK. We have seen progress on portable musical instruments being transported cost-free without an ATA carnet and have had confirmation that splitter vans are not subject to the TCA limits on cabotage and cross trade. We continue to speak to the four remaining member states and encourage them to have the same generous rules that we have in the UK to welcome musicians from all over the world. As I have said, the Foreign Secretary continues to raise this at the highest level.

Lord Bassam of Brighton Portrait Lord Bassam of Brighton (Lab)
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My Lords, the Minister referenced high energy costs. The noble Lord, Lord Black, spoke more widely of some of the threats to the music industry. Grass-roots music venues are closing at the rate of one a week, as the noble Lord rightly said. Without these venues, emerging artists will struggle to showcase their talents and grow the fanbase required to move to bigger venues. The Minister will know that many sports governing bodies prioritise grass-roots investment, while non-music performing arts enjoy various forms of public subsidy. Some theatres are able to charge a small restoration levy. Music is so important to our personal, communal and national shared experience. What other, more imaginative options than the Minister has given us today are his department exploring to ensure that smaller venues can flourish instead of being lost for good?

Lord Parkinson of Whitley Bay Portrait Lord Parkinson of Whitley Bay (Con)
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The noble Lord is right to raise this. I have pointed to the £18 billion energy bill relief scheme and the energy bill discount scheme, which has succeeded it. The Music Venue Trust has been raising the issue of small grass-roots venues. The Creative Industries Minister, Julia Lopez, met the trust last month to discuss its proposals for a levy such as the noble Lord outlined. I am also happy to say that on the trust’s other initiative, Own Our Venues, the Arts Council has contributed £500,000 of public funding towards this community project to purchase at-risk venues and rent them back to the owners as benevolent landlords. We look to creative solutions to these problems.

Treasure (Designation) (Amendment) Order 2023

Debate between Lord Bassam of Brighton and Lord Parkinson of Whitley Bay
Tuesday 28th March 2023

(1 year, 1 month ago)

Grand Committee
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Lord Bassam of Brighton Portrait Lord Bassam of Brighton (Lab)
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My Lords, this has been a fascinating debate so far, and I will try to add a little bit to it. I always know it is an important debate when the noble Lord, Lord Vaizey, turns up to entertain us for the afternoon. We welcome the bringing forward of this statutory instrument and the accompanying guidance, which is a fascinating document. We can see that it is the result of a lengthy consultation process, as the Minister said, which was started back in 2019.

As he outlined in the supporting documentation, there has been a growth in detectorism and the number of detectorists. In fact, as the Minister was speaking of his many visits to museums and places, I was thinking that perhaps he sees a future for himself as a detectorist, out there at the weekends with his metal-detecting device, because he is clearly very enthusiastic for it, and rightly so. As he said, more than 95% of finds since 1996 have been made by metal detectorists and the annual number of cases of treasure has climbed in the intervening period. It is clear that there is no shortage of treasure, enthusiasm or talent in this country and there is a desire to satisfy ourselves about our heritage, as a nation with a rich history. There is clearly an increasing urge to be connected to the past. For some, this takes the form of researching their family history, while for others it is a more active pursuit which takes place on our fields, beaches, riverbanks and other places where detectorists gather.

As noble Lords have already said, the Treasure Act has helped to put many important finds in the hands of museums, providing another important means for people to be informed about the history of their local area. As the Minister hinted, several significant finds in recent years have not been protected under the law, leaving artefacts at risk of falling into private hands, unless museums were able to rely on other methods, such as securing export bans. There is obviously a ready market for finds overseas, and I suspect particularly in the USA.

The step-by-step approach proposed by the Government, making changes so that metallic items are captured by the Act but not yet extending it to non-metal objects, appears a sensible way forward. While we support the order, the consultation underpinning it was launched a long time ago in 2019 and we wonder why it has taken quite so long to bring this change forward. If any further changes are deemed desirable, such as extending it to non-metal objects, we would like to see a more rigorous timeframe so that there can be greater certainty. Clearly this is a growing area of interest.

Can the Minister talk about the role of local museums and whether such institutions will be at the front of the queue to claim items found in their area? Previous research by the Museums Association shows that local authority funding cuts have resulted in a drastic scaling back of support for local museums. Are any steps being taken to address that issue? I know the Minister will be familiar with concerns raised by stakeholders and in another place about the potential for these changes to lead to underreporting of treasure finds. Will he comment on those fears?

Finally, I think the Minister’s Commons colleague volunteered him to address the exemption granted to items that fall under Church of England processes. Perhaps he can say a bit more about this and on that decision to ensure the record is complete.

Although these questions need answering, we hope this order and the accompanying changes to guidance will further increase interest in finding treasure, help protect those items for the future and, in doing so, make a positive contribution to the telling of important local and national historic stories.

Lord Parkinson of Whitley Bay Portrait Lord Parkinson of Whitley Bay (Con)
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My Lords, this has indeed been an entertaining and informative debate, and I am glad that two of my predecessors have excavated themselves to join us. I can see why they speak so fondly of their time engaging with this process because it is a highlight for any Minister at DCMS to be involved. I am glad that the noble Lord, Lord Inglewood, shared the tribute that I paid to him for his work, with the late noble Earl, Lord Perth, and all those who urged the important change. He is right to highlight what a success the Act has been and the number of items that it has saved for the nation to be shared with the public and to highlight the way that it has inspired people to discover more or to shed new insights into the past, sometimes including obscure practices, such as why people would ask my noble friend Lord Vaizey any questions. That practice is no longer continued.

The noble Lord, Lord Inglewood, is right to point to the fact that this is not because of the work of any legislators or Ministers but because of the many dedicated experts who are engaged in the process. I am glad that, in our debate, Roger Bland, chairman of the Treasure Valuation Committee, and Dr Michael Lewis, head of the Portable Antiquities Scheme, received the credit that is due to them.

The noble Lord is right to talk about the disappointment that can ensue when these items are not shared with the public. One of the most wonderful things about this is that items often end up in a museum close to where they were found. They help us to understand local and regional history as well as our shared national history. The noble Lord, Lord Bassam of Brighton, is right to point to the important role of local museums in sharing these items and giving credit to those who have found them and generously donated to support them.

The noble Lord, Lord Inglewood, is right to point out that these items are not always expensive. Their value lies in their importance and in the fact that they have been lost to human view for so long. They can quite often be purchased for reasonable sums, and there are many generous grant-making bodies, such as the Art Fund, the National Heritage Memorial Fund, the V&A, Arts Council England and many more, which help to keep these items in public collections and shared with museums and local visitors around the country.

The noble Lord, Lord Redesdale, asked whether we had thought about putting part of this process on a statutory footing. I will take that point away and discuss it with colleagues, but I underline the point that I made in my opening remarks about the resources that we have given to ensure that the process is well administered. In 2022-23, we gave the British Museum £365,000 for the administration of the Portable Antiquities Scheme, £150,000 to support the treasure process and £808,000 to support a new Portable Antiquities Scheme database. The scheme in England now employs 40 full- time and part-time finds liaison officers and 12 part-time liaison officers. We will be monitoring the impact of these changes on the scheme’s resources, but I will take away the noble Lord’s point about statutory support.

The question that the noble Lord asked about whether a specialist coroner would help speed up the process has been looked at before. I will discuss that with officials as we monitor the impact of the changes that the statutory instrument brings about. We have certainly assessed the additional work that we know this will cause coroners and we are aware that some parts of the country may be more affected than others. We have engaged with the Chief Coroner’s office, with coroners themselves and with colleagues across government on the order and the revised code, and we will be providing opportunities for training and advice for coroners and their staff, as well as monitoring the impact of these changes.

The noble Lord, Lord Bassam, invited me to say a bit more about the Church of England exemption. I explained the history to it in my opening remarks: as the established Church, the Church of England is the only Church that is officially recognised and that has a formal relationship with the state. It is therefore the only Church that has its own specific legislation, including a system of controls on the protection and disposal of moveable objects associated with its buildings and land.

Before the 1996 Act, the common law of treasure trove required that treasure had to have been hidden with an evident intention by the person who hid it to return and find it, which meant that objects related to Christian burials were not treasure. The 1996 Act removed that requirement, bringing these objects into the treasure process, while they also remained under the statutory processes of the Church of England. It highlighted the possibility that other treasure objects might be found, not in association with burials, which could be subject to both of those statutory regimes. It was to remove this confusion that these finds have been exempted from the definition of treasure. Our view is that the Church of England’s statutory processes provide sufficient protection for these finds. Equally, finds associated with other faiths and the Anglican Communion in Wales and Northern Ireland are protected by the treasure process.

I am grateful to noble Lords who have taken part in our debate today. As I said, we will keep the impact of these changes very much under review. Each year, we publish a Treasure Act statistical release and an annual report. Seeing its publication and some of the items found over the previous calendar year at the British Museum is indeed a highlight for us all. Because of that report, we will be able to monitor how many additional cases go through the process. In addition, we will speak to all those involved in the process, whether administrators or acquirers or finders of treasure, to see how effective the change is and how it has affected them. With renewed thanks to noble Lords who have taken part in the debate, I commend this instrument to the Committee.

Electronic Trade Documents Bill [HL]

Debate between Lord Bassam of Brighton and Lord Parkinson of Whitley Bay
Lord Bassam of Brighton Portrait Lord Bassam of Brighton (Lab)
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My Lords, it falls to me to add my general congratulations to the Minister, to the noble and learned Lord, Lord Thomas, for his work on this, to the Bill team and the advisers who were behind them and, in particular, as the noble Lord, Lord Clement-Jones, said, to Professor Sarah Green, who led the way in the evidence and cleared a great pathway for us. The Law Commission should be congratulated on constructing this legislation to which none of us wanted to effect an amendment, and we succeeded in that through many hours of deliberation and consideration, so that is something to be proud of in itself.

I want to add to a point the noble Lord, Lord Clement- Jones, usefully began. Many Bills meander their way through Parliament and disappear, sinking without a trace. I suspect this Bill might do that as well, but it does not deserve to. This is a really important piece of legislation which we should not just be proud of but make something of. Some estimates suggest we can save something like 50% in costs by moving to forms of electronic trade. That is not to be sniffed at in an intensely competitive international trading world. This piece of legislation, which puts us in the lead on electronic trade, is something we should celebrate.

I raised in Committee with the Minister that we should ensure we have a strategy which means that this Bill gets the opportunity to do what it says it is about: facilitating electronic trading. I asked the Minister about this when we were in Committee. He said:

“Following the Bill being passed, many of the precise steps taken to implement and fully harness the benefits of the Bill will be for business and industry to determine.”


That is fine, but we need a clear pathway and strategy from the Government for us to be able as a trading nation to reap the benefits of this legislation. I would like to hear from the Minister—it is something I am sure the House will want to come back to at some point—what that strategy might look like. He later said that there is

“a role for government to play”,—[Official Report, Electronic Trade Documents Bill [HL] Special Public Bill Committee, 20/2/23; col. 17.]

which is the case. However, we and Singapore are the only two trading nations with the benefit of this legislation in prospect.

I congratulate the Government on bringing this forward. It is a fine piece of legislation. It may not be controversial, but it is potentially of great value. I hope this Government can aspire to give this piece of legislation the value it deserves.

Lord Parkinson of Whitley Bay Portrait Lord Parkinson of Whitley Bay (Con)
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I am very grateful to the noble Lords, who have given the rest of your Lordships’ House a brief snapshot of the good scrutiny the Bill received through the Special Public Bill Committee. It may be unamended, but it is certainly not unscrutinised. I am very grateful to all the other members of the Committee for the work that they did and, as the noble and learned Lord, Lord Thomas, rightly said, to all the academic experts, those from the legal profession and, crucially, from the industries which stand to benefit the most and came to give evidence before the Committee. All of that was much appreciated.

The noble Lord, Lord Clement-Jones, asked about the single trade window. It falls to colleagues at His Majesty’s Revenue and Customs. If I may, I will direct the question to them and furnish him with an answer on the single trade window. Both noble Lords are right that there is work to be done across government. Colleagues at the Department for Business and Trade and at the Department for Science, Innovation and Technology will take the Bill forward in another place.

As noble Lords have heard me say before, through our presidency of the G7 recently and our role jointly chairing the Commonwealth digital connectivity cluster, we are in international fora encouraging other jurisdictions to follow our lead in this area to align with the model law and avail themselves of these opportunities. They are significant for industry in terms of the simplification and speeding up of trade, the environmental impact and resilience when it comes to unforeseen things such as the pandemic, which brought into relief the importance of this Bill.

This Bill is facilitative, but it will put the UK ahead not only of the G7 countries but almost the whole world. I am very proud that we are setting the approach which other jurisdictions will seek to follow. With gratitude to noble Lords who have scrutinised the Bill in your Lordships’ House, I beg to move that the Bill do now pass.

BBC: Government Role in Impartiality

Debate between Lord Bassam of Brighton and Lord Parkinson of Whitley Bay
Wednesday 15th March 2023

(1 year, 2 months ago)

Lords Chamber
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Lord Bassam of Brighton Portrait Lord Bassam of Brighton (Lab)
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My Lords, the Government claim not to have interfered in the BBC’s affairs this past weekend. We take that at face value, even if Downing Street had no problem with Conservative MPs applying their own pressure on the BBC. According to leaked messages, it is clear Downing Street has interfered in the corporation’s news output, both during the pandemic and at the beginning of the Ukraine conflict. Is not the Minister concerned by this quote from a BBC insider, who said:

“Particularly on the website, our headlines have been determined by calls from Downing Street on a very regular basis.”


Does not this bring us once again to the wholly inappropriate relationship between Boris Johnson and the man he appointed as chair of the BBC, and does not this tell us everything we need to know about the Government’s paper-thin commitment to the notion of impartiality?

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, the noble Lord will know that political parties, whether in government or in opposition, regularly contact the BBC and other broadcasters in relation to what they broadcast as part and parcel of the news content they provide, but the public service broadcasters do a brilliant job presenting impartial news which continues to inform people, whatever their political views or persuasions. The impartiality of the BBC as a publicly funded broadcaster goes to the very heart of the contract between it and the licence fee payers it serves. It is set out in the royal charter, along with the underpinning framework agreement, and the Government fully support the BBC in the action it takes to uphold that impartiality.

Creative and Cultural Sector: Social Mobility

Debate between Lord Bassam of Brighton and Lord Parkinson of Whitley Bay
Tuesday 7th March 2023

(1 year, 2 months ago)

Lords Chamber
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Lord Parkinson of Whitley Bay Portrait Lord Parkinson of Whitley Bay (Con)
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As my noble friend knows, we have ensured that the Arts Council, which distributes a lot of taxpayer subsidy to arts and culture, does so more fairly across the whole country, bringing opportunities and high-quality cultural provision close to people’s doorsteps. Since 2018, the Arts Council has asked national portfolio organisations, as it calls them, to provide data on the socioeconomic background of their permanent staff. We have asked them to take the socioeconomic background of the people involved into account so that we can make sure that everybody is able to enjoy the opportunities that that affords.

Lord Bassam of Brighton Portrait Lord Bassam of Brighton (Lab)
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My Lords, returning to the point made by the noble Baroness, Lady Bonham-Carter of Yarnbury, there is a crisis here. According to ONS data from researchers at the universities of Manchester, Edinburgh and Sheffield, the number of creative workers from working-class backgrounds has halved since the 1970s—my generation, if you like—and the chances of children from middle-class backgrounds getting a job in the cultural sector are four times greater than for those from working-class backgrounds. Does the Minister share my concern that this affects not only who portrays the characters but the stories and narratives seen by the wider public? What work is the department doing with the Social Mobility Commission in this area, and what additional resources can it give the commission to help it change the class basis of our arts?

Lord Parkinson of Whitley Bay Portrait Lord Parkinson of Whitley Bay (Con)
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The noble Lord is right: culture and creativity are enriched when as broad a range of people as possible are part of telling stories and sharing perspectives. That is why we commissioned the Creative Industries Policy and Evidence Centre to do the report that I mentioned. We have also commissioned an external evidence review to identify interventions that can help. I have mentioned the work we are taking forward through the cultural education plan and the creative industries sector vision, so there is work for us to do. The point he makes about the Social Mobility Commission is a good one, and I will follow it up with colleagues.

Medicines Manufacturing Industry

Debate between Lord Bassam of Brighton and Lord Parkinson of Whitley Bay
Monday 27th February 2023

(1 year, 2 months ago)

Lords Chamber
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Lord Parkinson of Whitley Bay Portrait Lord Parkinson of Whitley Bay (Con)
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My noble friend has great expertise in the economies of Latin America and South America. I will ensure that the example of Costa Rica is being heeded in the department.

Lord Bassam of Brighton Portrait Lord Bassam of Brighton (Lab)
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My Lords, all I am hearing is “managed decline”. The MMIP report set six themes for developments in medicines manufacturing, highlighting the importance of a resilient, stable manufacturing base to supply UK and global needs. The report aims to ensure that we have a competitive edge in a world of trade bottlenecks and political instability. What steps are the Government taking to collaborate internationally to secure better regulatory co-operation and trade facilitation to enable this? While we are at it, can the Minister update the House on the Horizon programme association bid, given the progress with the Northern Ireland protocol that we have been told about today?

Lord Parkinson of Whitley Bay Portrait Lord Parkinson of Whitley Bay (Con)
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The noble Lord is very up to the minute with the final part of his question, so I will perhaps defer my answer until I have seen what detail emerges. As I explained in the recent Question on Horizon, it is still the Government’s desire to join the programme. We hope that the EU will adhere to the terms of the trade and co-operation agreement, which we mentioned.

The pharmaceutical industry in the UK employs more than 136,000 people, of whom more than 48,000 are in manufacturing sites. The bulk of those are across the country, outside London and the south-east. There is perhaps not cause for as much gloom as the noble Lord had in his question, but we know that there is more work to be done, hence the work of the Life Sciences Vision and the innovative manufacturing fund to which I referred. We look forward to announcing the first winners of that fund later this year.

Horizon

Debate between Lord Bassam of Brighton and Lord Parkinson of Whitley Bay
Thursday 23rd February 2023

(1 year, 3 months ago)

Lords Chamber
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Lord Parkinson of Whitley Bay Portrait Lord Parkinson of Whitley Bay (Con)
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The right reverend Prelate’s final question is a matter for the EU. We stand ready to follow through on what was agreed in the trade and co-operation agreement and hope that the EU will do so swiftly. Erasmus is another good example of an EU programme that is open to other countries which, unlike us, were not for four decades members of the EU. Regrettably, the EU takes a different view on that. However, our Turing programme replaces it and makes sure that there are opportunities for people studying in the UK to benefit from international collaboration.

Lord Bassam of Brighton Portrait Lord Bassam of Brighton (Lab)
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My Lords, it is always best to know when you are beat on this. My view—and I am sure the Minister will not agree—is that the original negotiation on this programme was badly handled and we have been left with a poor deal. There have been a number of calls, including from health leaders, for the scheme introduced by government to grant applications with final submission deadlines on or before 31 March to be extended as a backup while we seek the important association that we are all agreed on. Will the Minister ensure that NHS patients can continue to benefit from the Horizon programme’s collaborative research? The last time I raised this issue, I asked the Minister then to confirm whether 31 March is the final cut-off date and whether the Government will bring forward a plan B to ensure that we have the right levels of international co-operation in research available. I did not get an answer then and the House deserves an answer today.

Lord Parkinson of Whitley Bay Portrait Lord Parkinson of Whitley Bay (Con)
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UK researchers and businesses will receive at least as much money as they would have done from Horizon over this spending review period. The Government are delivering their commitment to invest £20 billion a year in R&D by the end of the period; that is a rise of 30% in cash terms over three years, and the largest-ever increase in funding over a spending review period. We continue to pursue our associate membership of Horizon, as agreed with the EU in the trade and co-operation agreement, but it takes two to tango—it is up to the EU to follow through on that agreement as well.

Fan-led Review and Football White Paper

Debate between Lord Bassam of Brighton and Lord Parkinson of Whitley Bay
Tuesday 21st February 2023

(1 year, 3 months ago)

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Lord Bassam of Brighton Portrait Lord Bassam of Brighton (Lab)
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I was expecting a bit of support. This is no laughing matter, actually, because we have had 13 years of government prevaricating and dithering on this issue. We have had an excellent report produced by Tracey Crouch in another place. I am wondering whether the Secretary of State is going to be able to publish the White Paper this week, as was promised just yesterday. In the meantime, clubs such as Bury, Derby, Southend, Scunthorpe and Crawley have all had very unfortunate financial situations obliged upon them by owners. This is really important, and we need to get it right. There needs to be a fully effective football regulatory body at the core of the White Paper. Can we have from the Government today a definitive answer, first, that the paper is going to be published this week and, secondly, that we will have legislation before the next general election?

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, this is indeed an important matter. That is why it was a manifesto commitment, why the Government acted on it, why we commissioned Tracey Crouch to lead the fan-led review, why we accepted in principle the strategic recommendations she made and why we are grateful to everyone who gave their thoughts towards it. The Government have been at the forefront of work to reform our national game and ensure that it is fit for the future. The importance of this to clubs such as the ones the noble Lord mentioned is well known. The review that Tracey Crouch led shone important light on several significant and complex issues. It is right that we have given them due attention and we will be publishing our White Paper later this week and legislation will be set out in the usual way.

Electronic Trade Documents Bill [HL]

Debate between Lord Bassam of Brighton and Lord Parkinson of Whitley Bay
Lord Bassam of Brighton Portrait Lord Bassam of Brighton (Lab)
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I feel provoked to speak. I shall not detain the committee long. I entirely echo what the noble Lord, Lord Clement-Jones, said. The letters from all parties have been extremely helpful, and the noble Lord, Lord Lansley, has played a blinder in trying to draw out the detail, which has helped all of us. This is obviously a very necessary Bill, and I am sure that, in the fullness of time, it will ensure that we as a nation are well placed in the world of electronic trade and electronic trade documentation. I do not have any particular misgivings about the Bill, but I shall of course listen very carefully to what is said in the other clause stand part debates.

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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I will not detain the committee long on this clause, not least because I will speak in detail on Clause 2 in a moment. I echo my noble friend Lord Lansley’s thanks to all the members of the committee, with whom it has been a pleasure to work, particularly under the chairmanship of the noble and learned Lord, Lord Thomas of Cwmgiedd, who has helpfully steered our discussions. I express my gratitude to our clerks and all who gave evidence.

I am glad that my noble friend was satisfied by the letter that I sent on 17 February. I am glad to have this opportunity to put that on record. It will of course be published alongside the other Bill documents, so that the explanation contained in it can be seen. It goes without saying that the Government believe that Clause 1, and all the clauses, should stand part.

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Lord Bassam of Brighton Portrait Lord Bassam of Brighton (Lab)
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My Lords, clearly, the issue of possession and exclusive control was the nearest we came to controversy in our sessions on the Bill. But the convocation of professors arraigned before us was unanimous in the view that this is the way to approach the issue. The seminars on this which the noble and learned Lord, Lord Thomas, gave us added to our conviction that this was the right way. No doubt, it will establish the benchmark for other jurisdictions to follow.

I have one question. My eye alighted on the word “indorse” in Clause 3(1). Normally, this would be “endorse”. As I understand it—my English is not the best in the world—the difference is pretty marginal, but one relates specifically to financial terminology. I wanted to understand this better, because it is an unusual word that is not often used. Apart from that, I have nothing to add.

Lord Parkinson of Whitley Bay Portrait Lord Parkinson of Whitley Bay (Con)
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My Lords, I am sure that the Bill team behind me, to whom I add my thanks, will provide the legal thesaurus to answer the noble Lord’s question.

It is helpful to have a debate on Clause 3, as it is at the heart of the Bill. It provides that electronic trade documents are capable of possession and are, in all other ways, capable of having the same effect as paper trade documents. As my noble friend Lord Lansley said on the previous clause, this is an opportunity for us to show our working and reflect our helpful discussions in the committee with those who have kindly given evidence.

At several points during our deliberations, questions have arisen regarding the Bill’s approach to possession and exclusive control, particularly in comparison with the approach taken by the model law and Singapore. The Bill’s approach provides that a document that satisfies certain criteria, including being capable of exclusive control, qualifies as an electronic trade document, and that an electronic trade document can be possessed. The Singapore legislation and the model law provide that, if an electronic trade document can be exclusively controlled by a person, and if that person can be identified as the person in control, the document can satisfy a possession requirement. The main distinction between the two approaches is that the Singaporean and MLETR approach conceptualises exclusive control as a functional equivalent to possession, whereas the Bill provides expressly and directly that a document that can be exclusively controlled can be possessed.

The approach taken in the Bill was consciously chosen as the best solution for UK law for several reasons. Allowing the possession of electronic trade documents unambiguously removes the legal blocker currently preventing their recognition. It ensures that paper and electronic trade documents are subject to the same legal rules and laws, including that possessory concepts, such as pledge and conversion, apply to electronic trade documents in the same way they do to paper trade documents. This approach avoids the need fundamentally to rethink existing concepts of possession in respect of intangible assets, and it achieves equivalence with paper documents in a straightforward manner that is easy to understand for British businesses and global trade.

It is crucial for market certainty that electronic trade documents are able to plug directly into the existing legal framework applicable to paper trade documents. This identical treatment, irrespective of whether a document is in paper or electronic form, is particularly important, given the provisions in the Bill allowing for a change of medium, which are necessary to give parties flexibility as the industry seeks to effect the transition to electronic trade documents that we want to see.

Applying the concept of possession directly also preserves the role of intention in relation to electronic trade documents as it applies to paper. Intention is an important element of possession in UK law, and, as we heard in the oral evidence we received, it is possible to conceive of a situation in which a party has exclusive control of an electronic trade document but not the intention necessary for possession. Intention is relevant to determining who has possession of a paper trade document, and it should be equally relevant to the same documents in electronic form.

Possession is a common law concept with a significant and hugely valuable pedigree. The Bill in general, and Clause 3 in particular, is carefully worded to take advantage of this without risking the integrity of a well-established and foundational common law concept. Taking a different approach would require a fundamental reworking of the Bill.

Furthermore, the Bill deliberately does not define what it means to have possession of an electronic trade document. The Bill is concerned with features that an electronic trade document must exhibit in order to be possessable, and it includes a notion of control for this purpose only, rather than identifying who is in possession of it as a matter of fact or law, or both. Leaving the latter inquiry to the courts and common law is the preferable course of action. The common law has proven itself highly flexible and adaptable in this regard: existing common law has developed a range of tools to assist in determining what is, and who has, possession of a tangible asset at any particular time. This could include the related concept of constructive possession, which was raised in our evidence sessions as an important concept.

Although the common law of possession may need to be adapted in order to accommodate electronic trade documents, this is achievable without an explicit account of its relationship with control. This is largely because control is one of the two elements of possession as a matter of fact of common law.

Anyone with the ability to exercise control over an electronic trade document, such as anyone with knowledge of the private key or other security credentials, could thereby claim to have control and in turn a claim to possession. Where multiple people have competing claims to possession, existing rules on relativity of title will apply to determine the superior interest in any given situation.

The noble Lord asked about indorsement. It means an annotation in writing on the back of a paper trade document instructing that the obligation recorded therein be performed to the order of the person named in the indorsement or simply to order, which is called a blank indorsement. This instruction must be signed, and is usually completed by delivery. If the indorsement is a blank indorsement, the possessor of the document, whoever they may be, may indorse it in their turn. If the indorsement is to a named person, any subsequent indorsement must be by that person. It is an essential part of the transfer of many trade documents and any rights that attach to them. There is a business practice of indorsing paper documents on their reverse, which reflects that “indorsement” comes from the Latin “dorsus”, meaning back. The term is also used in the Bills of Exchange Act. I am glad that we have continued our learning process in this session.

Finally, on the subject of functional equivalence, it is worth noting that although Singapore is a common-law jurisdiction, it has diverged from the UK in the context of electronic communications and electronic commerce, where it has adopted other UNCITRAL model laws and the UK has not. The language of the MLETR might therefore be more compatible with Singapore’s existing law than it is with the UK’s. Its implementation without adaptation may raise fewer difficulties of interpretation there than it would in this jurisdiction. As the noble and learned Lord, Lord Thomas, said, different countries may take different approaches, but to all intents and purposes we are striving for the same ends.

As English law is the foundation of international trade, this Bill will put us ahead and in the lead not only of the G7 countries but of almost every other country in the world. The UK is setting the approach which all other jurisdictions will seek to follow, not just on the digitalisation of trade documents but on the future digitalisation of all trade, towards which this Bill is an important but merely foundational step.

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Lord Davies of Brixton Portrait Lord Davies of Brixton (Lab)
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My Lords, I thank everyone who has helped the committee in its work. It has been an education. I have learned a great deal about electronic trade documents; I suspect it will not be of great assistance in my future career, but there is some value in the context of all our discussions about the internet. Learning about the Special Public Bill Committee process has been of particular value, and I take on board the comments of the noble and learned Lord, Lord Thomas, about how the approach could be improved. My thanks to everyone.

Lord Parkinson of Whitley Bay Portrait Lord Parkinson of Whitley Bay (Con)
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My Lords, Clause 7 sets out the territorial extent of the Bill, so this is an opportunity for me to say a little about that, as I touched on in my letter of 17 February.

As we heard during the evidence sessions, timing and resourcing meant that, unfortunately, it was not possible for the Scottish Law Commission to work collaboratively on this project, but the Government have taken every opportunity to ensure that the Bill works across our devolved legislatures. On Scotland specifically, the Government have undertaken significant legal work, including by engaging independent legal counsel, to analyse and ensure the compatibility of the Bill with both English and Scots law, including that related to the Moveable Transactions (Scotland) Bill currently before the Scottish Parliament.

Following one of our evidence sessions, I corresponded with Professor Andrew Steven, who queried whether Clause 3(4) was necessary. In his response, he acknowledged our thinking behind its necessity and agreed with our approach. I will ensure that the Explanatory Notes that support the Bill are updated to provide further information on this matter. The Government are working closely with the Scottish Government to secure legislative consent from the Scottish Parliament. To be clear, this may require minor amendments to the delegated powers in the Bill to ensure that areas of reserved and devolved competence are satisfactorily covered.

The remaining parts of Clause 7 make provision about the coming into force of the Bill and it having prospective effect only. It also sets out the Short Title of the Bill. It will come into force two months after the day on which it is passed. Clause 7(3) ensures that an electronic trade document issued before the Bill comes into force cannot be possessed, indorsed or converted into a paper trade document. It also ensures that it is not possible to effect a change of form or medium under the Bill from paper to electronic if the paper trade document was issued before the Bill came into force.

Following the Bill being passed, many of the precise steps taken to implement and fully harness the benefits of the Bill will be for business and industry to determine. That is consistent with the approach taken throughout the Bill; it does not mandate the use of electronic trade documents but is a facilitative Bill. However, as we heard in our evidence sessions and as the noble and learned Lord, Lord Thomas, said again today, there are favourable winds and great enthusiasm from UK businesses for this important change. Businesses stand ready and eager to support the delivery of the Bill, which will benefit businesses of all shapes and sizes.

However, there is certainly a role for government to play here, not just my department but across His Majesty’s Government. For example, a memorandum of understanding has been agreed as part of the Singapore digital economy agreement, through which the Government are working in partnership with the International Chamber of Commerce on a pilot project intended to improve the interoperability between the UK and Singapore’s electronic trade documents framework. I mentioned in our evidence sessions the role that we played through our presidency of the G7 to encourage other jurisdictions to follow in this important area. We will continue to work alongside international bodies such as the ICC to assist that and support businesses to benefit from this UK legislation. We will work across government to ensure that this change is communicated.

The noble Lord, Lord Clement-Jones, asked about the Digitisation Taskforce chaired by Sir Douglas Flint. That was launched by the Chancellor in July 2022 to drive forward the modernisation of the UK’s shareholding framework. In particular, Sir Douglas has been asked to identify immediate and longer-term means of improving the current intermediated system of ownership, eliminate the use of paper share certificates for traded companies, mandate the use of additional options to cheques for cash remittance and consider whether the arrangements for digitisation can be extended to newly formed private companies and as an optional route for existing UK private companies. His Majesty’s Treasury leads on that work, so it may be better for Treasury Ministers to provide further information in the debates which noble Lords rightly say may prove useful.

In closing, I echo the thanks given to the Law Commission, particularly Professor Sarah Green, to George Webber and Louise Andrews, who have supported the committee’s work admirably, and to all those who gave evidence. I acknowledge the point made by the noble and learned Lord, Lord Thomas, about the difficulties imposed by the timetable of the Special Public Bill Committee process; we are all the more grateful that they sent us that evidence, which informed our discussions. I am also grateful to the members of the Bill team from across a number of departments who have supported our work.

I underline the point that all members of the committee have made and which has underpinned our discussions from the outset: that this small Bill has enormous potential to place the UK at the forefront of international trade as a thought leader for others to follow, and that it can bring significant benefits to British businesses, making it easier to sell internationally as well as cheaper, faster and more secure. It has been a privilege to work on it with the rest of your Lordships’ committee, and I hope that it will become law very swiftly.

Lord Bassam of Brighton Portrait Lord Bassam of Brighton (Lab)
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I caught what the noble Lord said about the Treasury. Am I correct in understanding him to say that the Treasury will be in the lead in developing a post-Bill implementation strategy, rather than the noble Lord’s own department? I can understand why, strategically across Whitehall, it might not be DCMS, but will it be the Treasury rather than the departments that are responsible for business and for trade?

Broadcasting: Children’s Television

Debate between Lord Bassam of Brighton and Lord Parkinson of Whitley Bay
Thursday 2nd February 2023

(1 year, 3 months ago)

Lords Chamber
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Lord Parkinson of Whitley Bay Portrait Lord Parkinson of Whitley Bay (Con)
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The noble Baroness is right, and the Government are clear that we want to see distinctively British content, so that young people growing up in this country can see it on television and on their tablets, or however they view it. Through our creative industries sector vision, the department is working to address skills gaps right across the creative industries in order to ensure that we can continue to make world-leading content.

Lord Bassam of Brighton Portrait Lord Bassam of Brighton (Lab)
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My Lords, we of course echo the concerns raised by the noble Baroness, Lady Benjamin. Public service broadcasting faces a number of challenges, including uncertainty over the status of the long-awaited media Bill, which was parked while the Government considered whether to U-turn on privatising Channel 4. Now that decision has been made, can the Minister confirm when noble Lords can expect some breaking news? If not, can he at least say whether the Leader of the House was correct when he stated on 12 January that this crucial legislation will be published only in draft form?

Lord Parkinson of Whitley Bay Portrait Lord Parkinson of Whitley Bay (Con)
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The media Bill will reform decades-old law to boost the growth potential of our world-leading public service broadcasters, replacing the outdated set of 14 overlapping purposes and objectives. We have set out those reforms in our White Paper and the Government will legislate when parliamentary time allows.

CCTV

Debate between Lord Bassam of Brighton and Lord Parkinson of Whitley Bay
Thursday 2nd February 2023

(1 year, 3 months ago)

Lords Chamber
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Lord Parkinson of Whitley Bay Portrait Lord Parkinson of Whitley Bay (Con)
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I do not have those figures to hand, but I imagine that they are substantial, and I shall find out and write to the noble Lord.

Lord Bassam of Brighton Portrait Lord Bassam of Brighton (Lab)
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My Lords, there is an opportunity here for the Government to get something right. The Product Security and Telecommunications Infrastructure Bill received Royal Assent, as the Minister knows, in early December. Its security provisions are designed to improve the security of smart products—a category that includes CCTV doorbells. Is the Minister able to provide some updates on commencement of Part 1 of the Act, or on the laying of relevant regulations and guidance, given that this will be the subject of some intense debate—and given, too, the potential privacy issues that will arise if security vulnerabilities in personal CCTV products can be exploited, as we now know, by bad actors?

Football: Illegal Entry to Matches

Debate between Lord Bassam of Brighton and Lord Parkinson of Whitley Bay
Wednesday 1st February 2023

(1 year, 3 months ago)

Lords Chamber
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Lord Bassam of Brighton Portrait Lord Bassam of Brighton
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To ask His Majesty’s Government what consideration they have given to introducing new criminal sanctions in England and Wales for those tailgating to gain illegal entry at football matches; and what other measures they are planning to take further to The Baroness Casey Review: An independent Review of events surrounding the UEFA Euro 2020 Final ‘Euro Sunday’ at Wembley, published in December 2021.

Lord Parkinson of Whitley Bay Portrait The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport (Lord Parkinson of Whitley Bay) (Con)
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My Lords, the Government keep tailgating under review. Any disorder associated with attempting to gain unauthorised entry may be a criminal offence, with a football banning order imposed following conviction. The safety of spectators at sporting events is of the highest importance. We continue to work closely with all the relevant authorities to ensure that football fans can continue to enjoy the sport safely. The review by the noble Baroness, Lady Casey of Blackstock, was commissioned by and reported to the English Football Association. The Government were referred to in four of the recommendations. Our approach to these is outlined in evidence to the DCMS Select Committee, a copy of which can be found in the Library.

Lord Bassam of Brighton Portrait Lord Bassam of Brighton (Lab)
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My Lords, I am conscious that I have asked this Question before and also that the Minister has responded before. Would it not be of value to consider making this an offence, to deal with the issue of tailgating, as the review from the noble Baroness, Lady Casey, suggested? This is against the background of a worrying increase in disorder at football grounds this season, evidenced by the recent increase in pitch invasions. We can never be complacent about disorder at football games, and we should never be complacent about crowd safety.

Lord Parkinson of Whitley Bay Portrait Lord Parkinson of Whitley Bay (Con)
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Absolutely—and we are not. As I have explained to the noble Lord before, we have taken action to implement a series of changes to the football banning order legislation with which he was associated when he was in government to help ensure safety at football matches. That included adding football related online hate crime to the list of offences, amending the threshold for the imposition of a banning order, extending the legislation to the women’s domestic game and adding football-related class A drug crimes to the list of offences. We continue to work with the police and football bodies to review disorder and consider whether any further action is necessary.

UEFA Euro 2020 Final

Debate between Lord Bassam of Brighton and Lord Parkinson of Whitley Bay
Wednesday 30th November 2022

(1 year, 5 months ago)

Lords Chamber
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Lord Bassam of Brighton Portrait Lord Bassam of Brighton
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To ask His Majesty’s Government what assessment they have made of the conclusions of the report by Baroness Casey of Blackstock An independent Review of events surrounding the UEFA Euro 2020 Final ‘Euro Sunday’ at Wembley, published on 3 December 2021; and what plans they have to publish a full response to that report.

Lord Parkinson of Whitley Bay Portrait The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport (Lord Parkinson of Whitley Bay) (Con)
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My Lords, the safety of spectators at sporting events is of the highest importance to His Majesty’s Government. We continue to work closely with all relevant authorities to ensure that football fans can continue to enjoy the sport while attending matches safely. This review was commissioned by and reported to the Football Association, and the Government were referred to in four of its recommendations. Our approach with respect to those recommendations is outlined in our evidence to the DCMS Committee inquiry into safety at major sporting events, a copy of which I have placed in the Library.

Lord Bassam of Brighton Portrait Lord Bassam of Brighton (Lab)
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My Lords, I had to introduce the current football banning order system as emergency legislation some 22 years ago. It works well to punish offenders identified by the police and football clubs, and they work well with the CPS. Stake- holders believe that a refresh is needed. They want us to intervene early. They want to better educate fans, improve advice for stewards and create a new offence tackling turnstile tailgating. Do the Government have a plan to bring forward these revisions to tackle increases in football-related disorder, or is this another issue that will be put on the back burner?

Lord Parkinson of Whitley Bay Portrait Lord Parkinson of Whitley Bay (Con)
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My Lords, the Home Office has already implemented a series of changes in relation to the existing football banning order legislation, building on the work that the noble Lord took when in government. This includes adding football-related online hate crime to the list of offences for which a banning order can be imposed on conviction, amending the threshold for the imposition of a banning order, extending the legislation to the women’s domestic game, and adding football-related class A drugs crimes to the list of offences, but we continue to keep all this under review.

Football Spectators (Seating) Order 2022

Debate between Lord Bassam of Brighton and Lord Parkinson of Whitley Bay
Monday 21st November 2022

(1 year, 6 months ago)

Grand Committee
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Lord Parkinson of Whitley Bay Portrait Lord Parkinson of Whitley Bay (Con)
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I am grateful to the noble Lord for the clarification. If it is helpful, I will write with some technical detail, as what he is asking is probably best covered in a letter setting out some of the technical specifications.

It is perhaps an interesting point to add that UEFA, which has consistently also maintained an all-seater policy for its competitions, is now conducting its own review into the feasibility of licensed standing areas. UEFA will engage with relevant parties in the UK and other UEFA nations that routinely have standing accommodation available in its domestic competitions.

The noble Lord, Lord Bassam, asked about the consumption of alcohol in view of pitches, an issue covered by the fan-led review. I know that he looks forward to a full response on that from the Government, which will be coming in due course. I shall check whether the document that he mentioned has been deposited in the Library, and, if not, I shall ensure that it is.

In conclusion, the statutory instrument does not change the overarching approach to sports ground safety. Safety remains the primary factor in whatever type of spectator accommodation is offered; the measure that we are debating today does not draw our interest in that to a close. We must not rest on our laurels with any aspect of stadium safety, but I am confident that in the Sports Grounds Safety Authority we have an expert body that will ensure that our approach evolves and remains world-leading for many years to come.

Lord Bassam of Brighton Portrait Lord Bassam of Brighton (Lab)
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I am sorry to get to my feet again, but the Minister has not dealt with my points on the five-yearly review periods and the criteria for design, and so on, although I appreciate that the technical stuff may be better dealt with in correspondence. Could he reflect on those two points?

Lord Parkinson of Whitley Bay Portrait Lord Parkinson of Whitley Bay (Con)
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If I may, I shall add the response to the five-year review to the letter setting out the technical details on the criteria. As I say, I remain confident that in the SGSA we have a suitable authority. I know that noble Lords will remain vigilant on this important issue, as rightly they should.

Football Governance

Debate between Lord Bassam of Brighton and Lord Parkinson of Whitley Bay
Thursday 3rd November 2022

(1 year, 6 months ago)

Lords Chamber
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Lord Bassam of Brighton Portrait Lord Bassam of Brighton
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To ask His Majesty’s Government when they expect to bring forward legislation to implement the recommendations of the Fan-Led Review of Football Governance, published on 24 November 2021; and in particular, the proposal for an independent regulator.

Lord Parkinson of Whitley Bay Portrait The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport (Lord Parkinson of Whitley Bay) (Con)
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My Lords, the Government published their response to the recommendations made by the independent fan-led review of football governance in April 2022. The Government recognise the need for football to be reformed to ensure the game’s long-term sustainability. We continue to consider the policy and consult interested parties, but the Government remain committed to publishing a White Paper setting out our detailed response to the fan-led review.

Lord Bassam of Brighton Portrait Lord Bassam of Brighton (Lab)
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My Lords, I warmly welcome the noble Lord back to his place on the Front Bench and commiserate with the noble Lord, Lord Kamall, his predecessor, but this is part of the problem. The Conservative Party made a strong manifesto commitment, as did our party, to hold a fan-led review of football’s governance. I appreciate that we have had a year of on-off, merry-go-round government, but a year has passed since the review was published and nearly six months since the Queen’s Speech announced a White Paper. When can we expect some legislative protection for our football clubs? When can we start to see the interests of the fans who give their support week in, week out to football clubs properly represented? This has been going on for far too long, and I think we are all beginning to run out of patience.

Lord Parkinson of Whitley Bay Portrait Lord Parkinson of Whitley Bay (Con)
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I join the noble Lord in paying tribute to my noble friend Lord Kamall, with whom I swapped places on the substitutes’ bench; I hope that his stay there will be as brief as mine. However, for all the changes in ministerial positions, the work to continue examining the recommendations made by Tracey Crouch, in commitment to and fulfilment of our manifesto pledge, as the noble Lord said, has continued at official level. The Secretary of State and my right honourable friend the Sports Minister, who have stayed in place, have been engaging with organisations. The Sports Minister made sure that his first meeting was with the Football Supporters’ Association. They are taking the time to continue that engagement and to look at the policy, and they will bring forward a White Paper with the answers to these complex issues soon.

Repatriation of Cultural Objects

Debate between Lord Bassam of Brighton and Lord Parkinson of Whitley Bay
Tuesday 6th September 2022

(1 year, 8 months ago)

Lords Chamber
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Lord Bassam of Brighton Portrait Lord Bassam of Brighton (Lab)
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My Lords, in begging leave to ask the Question standing in my name on the Order Paper, I declare my interest on the register as a trustee of the People’s History Museum and the Royal Pavilion and Museums Trust.

Lord Parkinson of Whitley Bay Portrait The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport (Lord Parkinson of Whitley Bay) (Con)
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My Lords, museums and galleries in England operate independently of government. Some national museums are prevented by law from deaccessioning items in their collection, with some narrow exceptions. The Horniman Museum is not subject to such legislation so this was a decision for its trustees, but I know that they went about their decision with appropriate care and consideration. Arts Council England has published a practical guide for museums in England to help them in approaching this issue more generally.

Lord Bassam of Brighton Portrait Lord Bassam of Brighton (Lab)
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My Lords, I congratulate the Horniman Museum on being made the Art Fund’s museum of the year back in July. The unanimous decision of the museum’s board to return ownership of 72 artefacts to Nigeria has been hailed as “immensely significant”—a view that I share. Given that the organisation receives DCMS funding, what discussions, if any, did the Horniman have with DCMS prior to making this decision, and should we take this as evidence of a shift in government policy on the future of cultural objects acquired through force? I note that George Osborne, chair of the British Museum, said recently in relation to the Parthenon sculptures that there was a “deal to be done”.

Lord Parkinson of Whitley Bay Portrait Lord Parkinson of Whitley Bay (Con)
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My Lords, I echo the noble Lord’s congratulations to the Horniman on its accolade as museum of the year and, indeed, to the People’s History Museum, which was shortlisted and narrowly lost out. As I said, the Horniman Museum is not prohibited in law from taking the decision. The trustees let us know that they had been approached with a request for restitution; I am satisfied that they went about it in a thoughtful manner, in accordance with their guidance. Separate guidance has been published by Arts Council England to inform deliberations by other museums but this does not have any implications for wider positions, particularly in relation to the barrier in law to deaccessioning.

Channel 4: Annual Report

Debate between Lord Bassam of Brighton and Lord Parkinson of Whitley Bay
Thursday 21st July 2022

(1 year, 10 months ago)

Lords Chamber
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Lord Parkinson of Whitley Bay Portrait The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport (Lord Parkinson of Whitley Bay) (Con)
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The department laid Channel 4’s annual report before Parliament on 13 July with no changes to its content from Channel 4’s draft. The timeline for the department receiving the draft annual report from Channel 4 and laying it before Parliament follows last year’s timetable. It is usual practice for departments to review annual reports ahead of publication.

Lord Bassam of Brighton Portrait Lord Bassam of Brighton (Lab)
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My Lords, rather than trying to sex up Channel 4’s annual report to suit the privatisation agenda, is now not the time for the Government to do a bit of a Lynton Crosby, “scrape the barnacles off the boat” and finally admit that neither the public—nor, for that matter, the parliamentary Conservative Party—want Channel 4 flogged off?

Lord Parkinson of Whitley Bay Portrait Lord Parkinson of Whitley Bay (Con)
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My Lords, given that Channel 4 is currently publicly owned, the Government are fully entitled to comment on the contents of its annual report. As I say, it is usual practice for departments to review annual reports. We cannot direct a public body to change what it says but it is quite proper for us to make representations. The Government are clear that we have the long-term interests of Channel 4 at heart in want to ensure that it continues to access the capital and funding it needs to continue doing the brilliant work that it has done for 40 years.

Broadcasting Sector White Paper

Debate between Lord Bassam of Brighton and Lord Parkinson of Whitley Bay
Monday 11th July 2022

(1 year, 10 months ago)

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Lord Parkinson of Whitley Bay Portrait Lord Parkinson of Whitley Bay (Con)
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The right reverend Prelate points to an important issue in talking of skills. The British Film Institute has looked at this very carefully and published its film and high-end TV skills review at the end of last month, which we strongly welcome and look forward to discussing with the industry to see how it engages with the findings. The Government are doing their bit by, for instance, the new pilots of flexible apprenticeships and through our regular support of more than £2 million a year to the National Film and Television School.

Lord Bassam of Brighton Portrait Lord Bassam of Brighton (Lab)
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My Lords, given that the current cost of living crisis is problematic across all sectors and can have a particularly adverse impact on the creative industries, which are sensitive to changes in economic conditions even without the continued fallout from the pandemic, what assessment has the department made of the impact of inflation and energy price increases across the whole sector, whether on huge production companies, small venues or the dedicated workforce that keeps the show on the road?

Lord Parkinson of Whitley Bay Portrait Lord Parkinson of Whitley Bay (Con)
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We talk about inflation and energy bills with all the sectors and industries that the DCMS has the privilege of representing. I spoke about them this morning at the Imperial War Museum when I visited it. Our settlement for the BBC will, as I say, ensure that it continues to receive around £3.7 billion in annual public funding, which will allow it to deliver its mission and public purposes.

Product Security and Telecommunications Infrastructure Bill

Debate between Lord Bassam of Brighton and Lord Parkinson of Whitley Bay
Lord Parkinson of Whitley Bay Portrait Lord Parkinson of Whitley Bay (Con)
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I do not think that they are quite analogous. As I say, it is about the requirement to keep the last available updates available to consumers for eight years rather than evolving them. We do not yet consider that there is sufficient evidence to justify minimum security update periods for connectable products, including display equipment—certainly not before the impact of the initial security requirements is known.

It is important to stress that, as consumers learn more, they will expect more. This will drive industry to respond to market pressure. If the market does not respond to this effectively, the Government have been clear that they will consider the case for further action at that point, but we think that consumer expectation will drive the action we want to see in this area.

Amendment 3, tabled by the noble Lords, Lord Clement-Jones and Lord Fox, refers to children. All noble Lords will agree, I am sure, that protecting children from the risks associated with connectable products is vital. I assure noble Lords that the security requirements we will introduce are designed with consideration for the security of all users, including children, alongside businesses and infrastructure. The Bill already gives the Government the flexibility to introduce further measures to protect children, whether they are the users of the products or subject to other people’s use of a product. We therefore do not think that this amendment is necessary as this issue is already covered in the Bill.

The Bill, and forthcoming secondary legislation, will cover products specifically designed to be used by or around children, such as baby monitors and connectable toys; they include Hello Barbie, which I was not familiar with but on which I will certainly brief myself further. However, we recognise that the cyber risks to children are not limited to the connectable products in the scope of this Bill; indeed, a lot of the issues referred to by the noble Lord, Lord Fox, were about the data captured by some of the technology, rather than the security of the products themselves. That is precisely why the Government have implemented a broader strategy to offer more comprehensive protection to children—including through the Online Safety Bill, to which the noble Lord, Lord Bassam, referred.

I hope noble Lords will agree that Amendment 3 is not needed to make a difference to the Bill’s ability to protect children from the risks associated with insecure connectable products—this is already provided for—and will be willing either to withdraw their amendments or not move them.

Lord Bassam of Brighton Portrait Lord Bassam of Brighton (Lab)
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My Lords, this has been a useful and interesting exchange.

In my lordly world, “may” and “must” are sort of interchangeable; they were a useful peg on which to hang our discussion about the statutory instrument nature of this piece of legislation. I am somewhat reassured by what the Minister had to say about that, and acknowledge that some of the regulations were brought forward and consulted on at an earlier stage. However, we on this side of the House—I am sure that I speak for the noble Lord, Lord Fox, as well—want to see increased transparency throughout this process. So much of what is in front of us will be in secondary legislation; it is essential that we, the industry and the sector are properly consulted so that we understand exactly what we are dealing with. I make that plea at the outset.

I was pleased to hear what the Minister said about children as the primary users of particular products. I am glad that we have got beyond the “Peppa Pig” world that the Prime Minister occasionally occupies and are giving this issue proper, serious consideration. It certainly needs to be that way.

I am not entirely convinced by what the Minister said on Amendment 4. I look at our amendment; it is pretty basic, actually. It is hard to argue against setting out a particular prohibition in legislation. The ones that we have picked out for prohibition and restriction are quite important and essential. Of course, the Minister is right that those subjects will change and technology will overtake the words we use. We understand that point but we are trying to secure some basic minimum standards and protections here. Clearly, we will retreat with our amendment and give it some further thought before Report, but we may need some further persuasion on this. That said, I am quite happy to withdraw Amendment 2 and not move Amendment 4.

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Lord Parkinson of Whitley Bay Portrait Lord Parkinson of Whitley Bay (Con)
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I am happy to include my noble friend in the replies and the letter I send. This touches on work which falls under the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy, and the points he raised, of course, fall to Her Majesty’s Revenue and Customs. We will make sure that, having consulted officials there, we provide some details of the work those departments are doing as well.

Lord Bassam of Brighton Portrait Lord Bassam of Brighton (Lab)
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My Lords, I am looking forward to the correspondence on this; I fancy that the noble Lord’s civil servants will have a tricky job on their hands. I do not think I quite got a response to what the nature of “being kept under review” really meant, but I await word in the future.

I have been reading the Explanatory Notes, as the Minister will probably be unhappy to hear, and I can see the difficulties. In trying to ensure that the legislation is focused, rightly, on the producers, manufacturers, importers and distributors, it is hard to work round that and not capture people who are simply installers of a product. On the other hand, there are circumstances where installers are primarily responsible for the effectiveness and working of the product, and if it was not for the way they install it, it would not be effective. The terms of the contract are such that it makes that difficult.

I can see the difficulty here, but for now I am happy to withdraw our amendment. In doing so, we are equally supportive of the amendment in the name of the noble Lord, Lord Fox, because the two are contiguous in their formulation.

Product Security and Telecommunications Infrastructure Bill

Debate between Lord Bassam of Brighton and Lord Parkinson of Whitley Bay
Lord Bassam of Brighton Portrait Lord Bassam of Brighton (Lab)
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No, I give credit where it is due. I congratulate the noble Lord, Lord Arbuthnot, on his amendment because the issues that he raised and the questions posed by the noble Lord, Lord Fox, in particular, are legitimate ones.

Although this is not the place to amend or change the Computer Misuse Act 1990, as the noble Lord, Lord Fox, said, it certainly is the place to raise concerns. After all, we are talking about product security and safety. It is vital that we have appropriate safeguards in place to prevent and, if need be, punish cyberattacks and other forms of hostile behaviour online.

However, as we seek to make smart devices safer, clearly there is a role for researchers and others to play in identifying and reporting on security flaws. They need to be able to do this within the safe zone of concern, knowing that they are not themselves going to be captured by those who are responsible for cybersecurity. As I understand it, exemptions exist in similar legislation to ensure that academics and other legitimately interested parties can access material relating to topics such as terrorism. The amendment before us today raises the prospect of granting a similar exemption and defence in this particular field.

I am conscious that the noble Lord, Lord Fox, raised the spectre of auras in the form of the noble Lords, Lord Vaizey, Lord Clement-Jones and Lord Holmes of Richmond—as well as the intent of the noble Baroness, Lady Neville-Jones, who is of course very knowledgeable about the business of security and has had both professional and political responsibility in that field. However, I think that, when those auras and his own say that this is an issue of concern, we as the Official Opposition reflect that concern.

I hope that the noble Lord will engage with the noble Lord, Lord Arbuthnot, and others following Committee on this—I am sure he will—because it is a very important subject. A campaign backed by such an esteemed cross-party group of colleagues in the Committee and in another place cannot be entirely wrong. The Computer Misuse Act 1990 is the framework we have got, but it is right that it is reviewed and that something fresh is brought before us to protect us from cyberattacks in the future.

Lord Parkinson of Whitley Bay Portrait Lord Parkinson of Whitley Bay (Con)
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I am very grateful to my noble friend Lord Arbuthnot of Edrom for representing the other three signatories to this amendment. I was glad to meet him and the noble Lord, Lord Clement-Jones, to discuss this yesterday.

The role of security researchers in identifying and reporting vulnerabilities to manufacturers is vital for enhancing the security of connectable products. The good news is that many manufacturers already embrace this principle, but there are also some products on the market, often repackaged white label goods, where it is not always possible to identify the manufacturer or who has the wherewithal to fix a fault. The Bill will correct that.

As noble Lords have noted, there are legal complexities to navigate when conducting security research. The need to stop, pause and consider the law when doing research is no bad thing. The Government and industry agree that the cybersecurity profession needs to be better organised. We need professional standards to measure the competence and capabilities of security testers, as well as the other 15 cybersecurity specialisms. All of these specialists need to live by a code of professional ethics.

That is why we set up the UK Cyber Security Council last year as the new professional body for the sector. Now armed with a royal charter, the council is building the necessary professional framework and standards for the industry. Good cybersecurity research and security testing will operate in an environment where careful legal and regulatory considerations are built into the operating mode of the profession. We should be encouraging this rather than creating a route to allow people to sidestep these important issues.

As noble Lords have rightly noted, the issues here are complex, and any legislative changes to protect security researchers acting in good faith run the risk of preventing law enforcement agencies and prosecutors being able to take action against criminals and hostile state actors—the goodies and baddies as the noble Earl, Lord Erroll, referred to them. I know my noble friend’s amendment is to draw attention to this important issue. As drafted, it proposes not requiring persons to obtain consent to test systems where they believe that consent would be given. That conflicts with the provisions of the Computer Misuse Act, which requires authorisation to be given by the person entitled to control access. As the products that would be covered by this defence include products in use in people’s homes or offices, we believe that such authorisation is essential. The current provisions in the Computer Misuse Act make it clear that such access is illegal, and we should maintain that clarity to ensure that law enforcement agencies do not have to work with conflicting legislation.

The amendment would also limit the use of such a defence as testers would still be subject to the legal constraints that noble Lords have described when reporting any vulnerability that the Government have not banned through a security requirement. If a new attack vector was identified that was not catered for by the security requirements, the proposed defences would have no effect. The amendment would not protect those testing products outside the scope of this regime, from desktop computers to smart vehicles. If we consider there to be a case for action on this issue, the scope of that action should not be limited to the products that happen to be regulated through this Bill. None the less, the Government are listening to the concerns expressed by the CyberUp Campaign, which have been repeated and extended in this evening’s debate.

The Home Secretary announced a review of the Computer Misuse Act last year. As my noble friend noted, the Act dates back to 1990. I do not want to stress too much its antiquity as I am conscious that he served on the Bill Committee for it in another place. His insight into the debates that went into the Bill at the time and the changes that have taken place are well heard. The evidence which is being submitted to the review is being assessed and considered carefully by the Home Office. It is being actively worked on and the Home Office hopes to provide an update in the summer.

I hope, in that context, that noble Lords will agree that it would be inappropriate for us to pre-empt that work before the review is concluded and this complex issue is properly considered. With that, I hope my noble friend will be content to withdraw his amendment.

Champions League Final

Debate between Lord Bassam of Brighton and Lord Parkinson of Whitley Bay
Monday 6th June 2022

(1 year, 11 months ago)

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Lord Bassam of Brighton Portrait Lord Bassam of Brighton (Lab)
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My Lords, spectator bottlenecks, closed turnstiles, riot police using tear gas on patient fans and thuggish attacks by local gangs indicate that something went seriously wrong in the planning of the Champions League Final and the police operational plan, yet the authorities immediately accused Liverpool Football Club fans.

I have three questions for the Minister. First, what liaison took place between UK and French police before the match, and were co-operation protocols properly followed? Secondly, although I welcome that assurances have been given on the genuine independence of UEFA’s inquiry or investigation, its terms of reference and likely punishments will be key to its work. The appointment of the inquiry chair and the terms of reference will determine the effectiveness of its outcome. Thirdly, what steps will be taken by the Government to help restore the reputation of Liverpool Football Club and of its fans? Many fans caught up in these events were at Hillsborough, where an early blame game saw lies established as fact. I hope that, on this occasion, the truth will quickly out.

Lord Parkinson of Whitley Bay Portrait Lord Parkinson of Whitley Bay (Con)
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I certainly agree with the noble Lord’s final comments: we want to see the truth out and to do so quickly. We want the facts to be established, which is why the Secretary of State and the Sports Minister urged that this independent investigation be swiftly set up and are glad that it has been. We are confident that UEFA is committed to a thorough review.

I will write to the noble Lord on the question of police liaison beforehand, having checked, but I saw that UK police officers were present there, which suggests liaison beforehand, and we will of course want their insights and evidence, as well as that of fans and others, to feed into UEFA’s review. He is absolutely right to mention the Hillsborough tragedy in this regard. Liverpool fans, above all, know all too well the importance of proper security and policing at football matches. That is important for fans across the world, whatever team they support. Something clearly went wrong on 28 May, and we are very glad that UEFA is investigating it so that the facts can be established.

Heritage Steam Sector: Coal

Debate between Lord Bassam of Brighton and Lord Parkinson of Whitley Bay
Wednesday 18th May 2022

(2 years ago)

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Lord Parkinson of Whitley Bay Portrait Lord Parkinson of Whitley Bay (Con)
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The noble Lord makes an interesting point. The Government have set up an interministerial group on the visitor economy, and I will direct the noble Lord’s point to my ministerial colleagues.

Lord Bassam of Brighton Portrait Lord Bassam of Brighton (Lab)
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My Lords, I live not far from the Bluebell Railway which, later this year, will play host to the iconic “Flying Scotsman”. That line places specific emphasis on the educational value of our heritage steam sector, and I wonder whether the Government should be investing more in this. Perhaps, as part of the discussions with the heritage steam sector, they could take forward some further thinking to increase the country’s knowledge of the value and importance of steam and its part in our great Industrial Revolution.

Lord Parkinson of Whitley Bay Portrait Lord Parkinson of Whitley Bay (Con)
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Absolutely. Coming from the north-east, the cradle of the railways and the birthplace of George and Robert Stephenson, I am very mindful of the approaching bicentenary of the first passenger rail. We are already discussing that with the National Railway Museum and others in the sector. It is very important that we continue to inspire people about our industrial past, as well as turning their minds to scientific challenges for the future—not least looking at clean coal and other energies.

Gambling Industry: Gambling Reforms

Debate between Lord Bassam of Brighton and Lord Parkinson of Whitley Bay
Tuesday 17th May 2022

(2 years ago)

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Lord Parkinson of Whitley Bay Portrait Lord Parkinson of Whitley Bay (Con)
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As the noble Viscount knows, we have looked also at the harms associated with online gambling. Indeed, while awaiting the White Paper and the outcome of our review, we have strengthened the rules on how online operators identify and interact with people at risk of harm. We are not delaying in taking action where that is needed.

Lord Bassam of Brighton Portrait Lord Bassam of Brighton (Lab)
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My Lords, so far as we are concerned the Government continue to drag their feet on reforming gambling regulation, with reports suggesting that the White Paper has been delayed yet again. Gambling firms pay a significant amount in tax and there is a balance to be struck—we all like a flutter. However, with the Exchequer ultimately responsible for the significant costs of problem gambling, it is right that regulatory and fiscal arrangements are reviewed. Does the Minister believe it is right for firms such as bet365 to argue against proposals for a statutory levy while its boss takes home a salary of £250 million a year and £97.5 million in dividend payments?

Lord Parkinson of Whitley Bay Portrait Lord Parkinson of Whitley Bay (Con)
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My Lords, we have sought views from all interested parties as part of our review of the Act, including the industry, which is taking action in some areas. We are happy to engage with people on both sides of the argument. We called for evidence on the best way to recoup the regulatory and societal costs of gambling, which includes looking at a levy, and we will set out our conclusions in the White Paper.

Channel 4 Privatisation

Debate between Lord Bassam of Brighton and Lord Parkinson of Whitley Bay
Tuesday 5th April 2022

(2 years, 1 month ago)

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Lord Parkinson of Whitley Bay Portrait Lord Parkinson of Whitley Bay (Con)
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On the noble Lord’s first point, the responses to the consultation will be published alongside the White Paper to which I alluded in my initial Answer. I disagree deeply with the rest of his question: the Government value highly Channel 4 and the part it plays, and has played for 40 years, in our broadcasting ecosystem. We want to ensure that its next 40 years and beyond are just as successful and that it can flourish. It is doing that in a very rapidly changing and increasingly competitive media landscape. Channel 4 is uniquely constrained by its current ownership model and limited access to capital. It is such a successful broadcaster that we think it will make an attractive proposition for people to buy, and private ownership will allow it to create new revenue streams and compete as effectively as possible to be fit for the future.

Lord Bassam of Brighton Portrait Lord Bassam of Brighton (Lab)
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My Lords, last Friday the energy price cap increased by £700; inflation continues to climb and may reach 10%; we face record costs at petrol pumps and bumper increases to phone and broadband bills; and social security payments are to be cut in real terms from tomorrow. All this is at the same time as fines have been dished out to Downing Street officials for breaches of Covid regulations, so can the Minister tell us why the Government have chosen now to announce the privatisation of Channel 4, and can he give us three good reasons for doing so? It is not in the interest of public services or public service broadcasting.

Lord Parkinson of Whitley Bay Portrait Lord Parkinson of Whitley Bay (Con)
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I must say that I find that a weak argument from the noble Lord. The Government are capable of doing many things. There is an urgency in addressing this issue so that Channel 4 is fit for what is a rapidly changing media landscape. The proportion of viewing on subscription on-demand services has trebled since 2017; it is important that Channel 4 is able to compete with the likes of Netflix and Amazon, so that it can continue to support the independent production sector and produce the viewing for which it is rightly renowned. That is why, as part of a wider package of reforms to public service broadcasting, the Secretary of State has announced her decision, ahead of having the vehicles to do that.

British Museum: Ethiopian Sacred Altar Tablets

Debate between Lord Bassam of Brighton and Lord Parkinson of Whitley Bay
Wednesday 30th March 2022

(2 years, 1 month ago)

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Lord Parkinson of Whitley Bay Portrait Lord Parkinson of Whitley Bay (Con)
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I completely agree with my noble friend, and am grateful to him for alluding to the British Museum’s work in this area. The pages on its website that explain both these items and, more generally, the museum’s approach to issues of restitution and contested heritage, are a model of transparency. They set out the facts very clearly so that people can understand the past and make their own decisions—and also so that they can understand the claims for restitution that have been made to the museum, and how the museum is dealing with them.

Lord Bassam of Brighton Portrait Lord Bassam of Brighton (Lab)
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My Lords, while I appreciate that there are some legal complexities surrounding the return of the sacred tabots to Ethiopia, these highly significant religious artefacts have resided unseen in the British Museum’s stores for the best part of 150 years. As I understand it, not even students, researchers or historians are able to view them. This cannot be right. Can the Minister give some comfort to Ethiopia by encouraging the trustees of the British Museum to find a solution that satisfies curatorial concerns and the understandable desire from Ethiopia for them to be returned to their rightful home?

Lord Parkinson of Whitley Bay Portrait Lord Parkinson of Whitley Bay (Con)
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The noble Lord touches on the core sensitivity of the matter. Some of these items are considered so sacred and holy that they can be looked at only by Ethiopian Orthodox priests, which would be the case in Ethiopia as in London. That is why the British Museum is in discussion with the Church. There are other items, however, from Maqdala that can be found in the museum’s public galleries or changing displays. Together and individually, they demonstrate some of the great artistic traditions of Ethiopia, showing the breadth and explaining the diversity of the religious traditions in that country, including Christianity, Islam, Judaism and many other faiths.

Football Governance

Debate between Lord Bassam of Brighton and Lord Parkinson of Whitley Bay
Tuesday 22nd March 2022

(2 years, 2 months ago)

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Lord Parkinson of Whitley Bay Portrait Lord Parkinson of Whitley Bay (Con)
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The suitability of football club ownership was an important part of the fan-led review, and we welcome recognition from the Premier League that current tests are not sufficient. The fan-led review is about future-proofing the system, both domestically and, as the noble Lord says, in the international leagues, and we will set out our response to all these issues in full.

Lord Bassam of Brighton Portrait Lord Bassam of Brighton (Lab)
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My Lords, the takeover of Newcastle by a consortium with links to the Saudi regime prompted questions about the appropriateness of the current fit and proper person test for owners and directors, and Mr Abramovich’s recent hasty attempts to sell Chelsea also raised concerns about due process. Can the Minister give us some confidence that these issues will be dealt with when the Government issue their response to the excellent Crouch review?

To pick up a comment made by the noble Lord who preceded me, the Premier League confirmed recently that it is looking to add human rights components to its assessment of prospective owners and directors. Do the Government support such a change? If so, what discussions have they had with other football stakeholders, including the FA and the EFL?

Lord Parkinson of Whitley Bay Portrait Lord Parkinson of Whitley Bay (Con)
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As I say, the suitability of club ownership was an important part of the review. The review is about future-proofing the system, and that is why we are considering how to enhance the owners and directors tests to ensure that football has only suitable custodians. It is difficult to look back retrospectively at individual cases, but we are determined to get this right, and we are discussing the matter with people across the football pyramid to make sure that we do so properly.

Creative Professionals: EU Tours

Debate between Lord Bassam of Brighton and Lord Parkinson of Whitley Bay
Monday 21st February 2022

(2 years, 3 months ago)

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Lord Parkinson of Whitley Bay Portrait Lord Parkinson of Whitley Bay (Con)
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We do now have an agreement with Spain—that is the most recent to be added to the list. One of the six which remains is Portugal, which of course had its general election last month. That has slowed down the negotiations there, but those are continuing at ministerial and official level.

Lord Bassam of Brighton Portrait Lord Bassam of Brighton (Lab)
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My Lords, perhaps this is an apposite moment for the House to acknowledge the contribution and sad death of Jamal Edwards, who has done so much to promote a new wave of musicians and artists to a global audience. Awarded an MBE at 24, he was an inspiration to a new generation. With that in mind, perhaps the Minister can tell us what support Her Majesty’s Government are giving to young new artists who are not signed to a label but who want to tour and take their first steps towards performing to overseas audiences. The new Secretary of State has said that a package of specific help is coming. When will she deliver on that promise and help to resolve the EU’s continuing border issues?

Lord Parkinson of Whitley Bay Portrait Lord Parkinson of Whitley Bay (Con)
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I was very sad to see the news about Jamal Edwards this morning, dying so tragically young. The Government are committed to making sure that emerging artists and new talent have opportunities. We are working on a refresh of the national plan for music education under the chairmanship of my noble friend Lady Fleet, and with the Department for Education to make sure that opportunities in schools as well as outside are available to everybody. Through our working group, we are engaging with the sector to make sure that those who face challenges in touring know that the Government are working to address them.

Dormant Assets Bill [HL]

Debate between Lord Bassam of Brighton and Lord Parkinson of Whitley Bay
Lord Bassam of Brighton Portrait Lord Bassam of Brighton (Lab)
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I am grateful to my noble friend for his support on that point.

We on our Benches look forward to the consultation in due course and hope that the department will continue to engage with proponents of community wealth funds. Such funds could play an interesting and, we think, valuable role in levelling up and empowering local communities seeking their own solutions to local problems, a feature of the White Paper that we very much endorse.

May I use this occasion to ask the Minister what the Government intend to do to ensure that we continue to widen the potential scope for unlocking other dormant assets? Here I am thinking of Oyster cards, proceeds from crime funds, unclaimed pensions and unused insurance. It is worth reminding ourselves that the independent commission report identified some £715 million from investments and wealth management, £550 million from the pensions and insurance sectors, £150 million from securities, and £140 million from banks and building societies. Unlocking that sort of wealth unlocks a lot of power and gives great potential for social benefit. These are not inconsiderable sums of money, and if put in the right place and adapted, used and adopted for levelling up, they could leverage in bigger sums still for the hard-pressed communities that we want to see levelled up in the next few years.

We are again grateful to the Government for what they have done in improving the Bill. Your Lordships’ House played a valuable and valid part in that process. We are slightly underwhelmed by what has come back, but we are extremely grateful.

Lord Parkinson of Whitley Bay Portrait Lord Parkinson of Whitley Bay (Con)
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My Lords, I thank the noble Lord and the noble Baroness for their remarks, which reflect the cross-party work that has improved this Bill throughout its passage and the interest that it has garnered from all corners for the benefits that it will bring. I am grateful to the noble Lord, Lord Blunkett, for reminding the House of the contribution of the noble Lord, Lord Field of Birkenhead, and indeed many others who have played close attention to this issue for a long time.

To respond to the questions and points raised by the noble Baroness, Lady Barker, we recognise that the provisions that were inserted on Report in your Lordships’ House were permissive, but the Government contend that Amendment 3 is preferable in three main ways. First and foremost, it fulfils our commitment to consult openly; we have emphasised throughout the passage of the Bill that the consultation must be fair and transparent, and we remain mindful of the need to bring industry along with us alongside civil society and the general public. We cannot therefore agree to any amendment that would suggest that the process would be undercut.

Secondly, it recognises the widespread support and positive impact that the current causes of youth, financial inclusion and social investment have had. I am sure that noble Lords did not intend to imply that those would be disregarded, but the provisions that were inserted on Report in your Lordships’ House were silent on those and thereby afforded community wealth funds more legislative attention than those initiatives.

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Lord Parkinson of Whitley Bay Portrait Lord Parkinson of Whitley Bay (Con)
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My noble friend raises an interesting point that has not been made hitherto during the passage of the Bill, but I know that he speaks with considerable experience from his time working with TfL. If he allows me, I will write to him with further information about the implications for Oyster cards, which is a matter that has not been covered. It may have been covered in another place, but I have not seen whether that is the case.

Lord Bassam of Brighton Portrait Lord Bassam of Brighton (Lab)
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I remind the noble Lord that he did not answer my last question regarding reviewing the future of other dormant assets. If he is unable to do so at this point, I am happy to receive correspondence on the topic.