Mr John Whittingdale (Maldon) (Con): What assistance his Department (the Foreign and Commonwealth Office) is giving to Ukraine.
The Minister for the Armed Forces (Mr Mark Francois): The UK remains firmly committed to Ukraine’s sovereignty, independence and territorial integrity. We welcome the ceasefire agreement reached between Ukraine and Russia in Minsk on 5 September and the subsequent agreement on 19 September setting out the modalities for its implementation. The ceasefire agreement is broadly holding, although there have been a number of breaches on both sides. The MOD will continue to build on its long-standing relationship with the Ukrainian MOD. We have increased our defence engagement, providing additional support on crisis management, anti-corruption measures, defence reform and strategic communications.
Mr Whittingdale: As my right hon. Friend is aware, Ukrainian forces recently engaged not just with Russian-backed separatists, but with regular Russian army troops and their armour, which invaded their country and inflicted upon them heavy losses. Will he see what more can be done to rebuild Ukraine’s defence capability?
Mr Francois: We are clear that there cannot be a simply military solution to this conflict. We have provided military support and additional non-lethal support in line with Ukrainian priorities. Specifically, the Government have already provided non-lethal support to the Ukrainian security forces, including personal protective equipment, and last week the Government announced their intention to deliver more than £800,000-worth of further kit, including body armour, medical kits and winter supplies. Also at the NATO summit the UK committed to leading a new C4—command, control, communications and computers—trust fund. We have pledged over £500,000 to the C4 logistics and standardisation trust fund as well. With contributions from other nations, those trust funds and wider NATO activity will play a significant role in supporting the Ukrainian armed forces.
Mr John Whittingdale (Maldon)(Con) I am pleased to have the opportunity to present to the House the Committee’s report “Future of the BBC”. Our major inquiry began well over a year ago, and I express my thanks to my colleagues on the Committee, our Clerks and our specialist adviser, Mr Ray Gallagher.
As is well known, the BBC charter expires at the end of 2016. The renewal process provides an opportunity to examine all aspects of the BBC—scale, scope, governance and funding. Since the previous charter renewal, huge changes have taken place to the way in which people watch television. At the time of that renewal, most households had access to only four channels, but since then we have had analogue switch-off, meaning that everyone has access to 40 or more digital channels. Many people also access catch-up television through the iPlayer or some of the new streaming services. The whole media landscape therefore looks very different from how it did 10 years before.
The Secretary of State has said that it will be for the next Government to consider the future of the BBC and charter renewal—I understand his reasons—but the Committee points out that at the time of the previous review, an independent panel led by Lord Burns conducted a long public consultation before reaching conclusions. We think that this matter is so important that a similar process should take place this time, and there is no reason why that could not be initiated as soon as possible. Either way, I hope that our report will set the agenda for the forthcoming debate.
Mr John Whittingdale (Maldon) (Con): Does my right hon. Friend agree that the appalling incident in Ukraine is the consequence of a war that has been raging for many months and that had already led to the loss of hundreds of lives? As well as now imposing the toughest possible sanctions on President Putin and Russia, if it is shown that they continue to support the separatists, will he consider what additional support he can give to President Poroshenko to restore the authority of the Ukrainian Administration throughout the whole of the country?
The Prime Minister: I agree with my hon. Friend. The most important thing we can do with regard to Ukraine is to help its economy recover and to make sure it has the assistance to restructure and be a successful, prosperous democracy. That is the best thing we can do. The association agreement signed between the EU and Ukraine is very important in that regard.
John Whittingdale attended an event organised by the SportsAid charity to highlight the support that they give to promising young athletes with money raised from My Lotto 24. At the reception, John met Danica Brazier who lives in Bicknacre and plays water polo for the GB ladies junior under 17s water polo team. Her home swimming club is Chelmsford Swimming Club, although she also trains with Basildon, Crawley, London Otter and Mid Sussex Marlins. Last year, Danica received an award of £1000 from SportsAid and My Lotto 24.
In March she will take part in the qualifying competition for the 1st European Olympics being held in Baku, Azerbaijan in June. John said: “I am very much aware of the significant costs faced by young elite athletes and am very pleased that SportsAid is supporting them in this way. I warmly congratulate Danica on the success that she has already achieved and wish her every success in her future sporting career.”
Mr John Whittingdale (Maldon) (Con): Will my right hon. Friend join me in congratulating the Red Arrows on their 50th display season this year? Will he give an assurance that the future of the Red Arrows is secure under a future Conservative Government? The shadow Secretary of State was unable to give such an assurance for a future Labour Government.
Mr John Whittingdale (Maldon) (Con): It is a pleasure to serve under your chairmanship, Mr Owen. I too congratulate my hon. Friend the Member for Dover (Charlie Elphicke) on obtaining this debate, and add my congratulations to the Minister on his appointment.
Every speaker so far has talked about the value of community hospitals. I do not want to repeat what has been said, but I utterly endorse the tributes that have been paid to the dedicated staff who work in those hospitals, the intimate care that they are able to provide to patients—sometimes lacking in very large, more general hospitals—the proximity they have to communities and the fact that patients can be visited by relatives and friends much more easily. All those factors are real strengths that contribute to faster recovery times.
I am afraid that, like every Member, I will talk about my own experience of my local community hospital in Maldon, St Peter’s community hospital, which is greatly loved. Like many, it offers out-patient treatments, has rehabilitation beds and offers therapies. It also has a maternity unit. In my early days as a Member of Parliament I marched down Whitehall with the local protest group in defence of that unit when it was suggested that it might close. I am pleased to say that it did not and is still there; although I cannot personally say that I have contributed to its work, my hon. Friend the Member for Witham (Priti Patel), who I am sure would be here had she not become a Minister, had her first child in the Maldon hospital maternity unit.
Mr John Whittingdale (Maldon) (Con): May I commend my right hon. Friend on his efforts to extend mobile coverage, but is he aware that many of my constituents have been without any mobile coverage for nearly three weeks due to Vodafone having to remove a mast from premises that the landlord required it to vacate? Will he consider looking at the electronic communications code to see whether it can be strengthened to give the same sorts of rights that already exist for other utilities, such as water and electricity?
The Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport (Sajid Javid): I was not aware of that particular issue in my hon. Friend’s constituency, but now he has raised it I will certainly look into it and see whether we can help. The electronic communications code is a very important issue and I am looking into it right now, because I agree that it was set up for a different age and there need to be significant changes.
Mr John Whittingdale (Maldon) (Con): The hon. Lady is absolutely right that the majority of English Heritage properties are what are known as unroofed and operate mainly on a maintenance basis. If English Heritage is to become self-sustaining in terms of revenue, it will need to concentrate on the 130 properties that are currently charged for. To become self-sustaining within the period will be a huge task, and it is not at all clear what will happen if it fails to do so.
Jenny Chapman: I am grateful to the hon. Gentleman for that intervention, because that is precisely the reason for this debate. In principle, there is no objection to the proposal, but there is deep concern about how realistic it is. All Governments have a track record of rushing into reforms with the best of intentions, but it would be a disgrace if this were allowed to fail. We need to know how the Government plan to act should that happen.
Moving on from the sites to those going to see them, the National Trust has pointed out that the targets for membership and visitor numbers, on which the new model relies, are what it would call ambitious. The predicted growth in membership is 86% over the next 10 years. Even in its most successful decade, the National Trust grew its membership by only 20%, and the trust is five-star outstanding in terms of its membership organisation. If it questions the nature of the membership target, I would listen very carefully. The model is also reliant on visitor numbers going up by a predicted third. I hope that that is the case—we want this to work—and that we see English Heritage attract more and more of our constituents to enjoy its sites, but it is quite a leap, and many of us are worried about what would happen if we fail to make that leap in membership, visitor numbers and revenue.
Mr John Whittingdale (Maldon) (Con): May I join my right hon. Friend in paying tribute to Tony Benn, whose ancestral seat of Stansgate is in my constituency? He was held in high regard by my constituents, even though they may not have agreed with his views. Is my right hon. Friend aware that today’s figures show that unemployment in Maldon has fallen by 27% since the last election, and does he agree that that is further proof that the Chancellor was absolutely right to ignore his critics on the Opposition Benches and stick to his guns?
The Prime Minister: I thank my hon. Friend for what he has said. As I said, there is good news in the unemployment figures about getting women and young people into work and about falls in long-term unemployment, but there has also been the largest annual fall in the claimant count—the number of people claiming unemployment benefit—since February 1998. Getting people back to work and giving them the chance of a job, dignity and security in their lives is really important. That is what our economic plan is all about.
Mr Whittingdale: On a point of order, Mr Speaker. You may recall that in November last year, I raised a point of order to express my concern that Dato Makudi had been given leave to take to the Court of Appeal his action for defamation that related to remarks made by Lord Triesman to the Football Association, in which he merely referred to statements that he had made to the Select Committee on Culture, Media and Sport about possible corruption in FIFA. Those remarks were, of course, made under privilege.
At that time, I expressed my concern that the action represented a significant threat to the privilege conferred on Members and, indeed, on witnesses who appear before Select Committees of this House, and that it could have the severe effects of preventing us from exposing truth and giving witnesses the impression that they do not enjoy the protection of parliamentary privilege. You were sufficiently concerned, Mr Speaker, to make a submission to the Court of Appeal.
As you may be aware, Mr Speaker, the Court of Appeal has reached a judgment in which it is clearly stated that Lord Triesman’s remarks were covered by article 9 of the Bill of Rights. I believe that that is a significant re-establishment of the rights of this House. I wonder whether you would like to make a statement in the light of that.
Mr Speaker: I am very grateful to the hon. Gentleman for his point of order. As he rightly says, I shared his grave concern, not principally on behalf of Lord Triesman, but on behalf of the House, that a threat to parliamentary privilege and, therefore, to Parliament was entailed. I did, as I indicated to the hon. Gentleman was my intention, cause representations to be made to the Court of Appeal. It was, of course, a matter for the court and I am absolutely delighted that it found in favour of Lord Triesman. That was a victory not just for Lord Triesman, but for the precious principle of parliamentary privilege and for Parliament itself. It was a very important day, and the hon. Gentleman is right to celebrate it and to give me the opportunity, on behalf of the House, to do the same.
Mr John Whittingdale (Maldon) (Con): My right hon. Friend said that the Bill’s provisions were being introduced on the advice of those who were most affected by the regulations, but he will be aware of the concern that has been expressed by a wide range of media and broadcasting organisations about the effect of clause 47 in removing important journalistic protections. Is there anything he can say to reassure them that it will not have the effect they fear?
Mr Letwin: I am grateful to my hon. Friend, the Chairman of the Select Committee on Culture, Media and Sport, for raising that issue, which is indeed important. It was a late entrant, in the sense that it was no part of the intention of clause 47 to have the effect that some of the media organisations are worried about. Those organisations have been worried that the clause would obviate the need for both parties to be in court when a court orders what is called a production order, which typically requires, for example, a bank to produce the accounts of a person accused of a particular malfeasance, where those accounts are relevant to the trial.
In the case that the media are concerned about, a production order would be used to ask a media organisation to produce some piece of information it holds. Those media organisations were worried that they would no longer have the guarantee of their day in court to contest such a production order, because the effect of clause 47 would be to replace the need for the existence of primary legislation governing inter partes rules with the criminal procedure rules committee. The media were afraid that the criminal procedure rules committee might in some way weaken the inter partes rules. I have good news for my hon. Friend and his Committee, and indeed for the media organisations—which, incidentally, I have offered to meet later in the week or next week. As it was no part of the intention of clause 47 to do that, we are now looking for ways specifically to exempt journalism and all such media items from the clause. If I may, I would like to discuss with him and his Committee the precise drafting of that change, so that we can be sure that the media organisations themselves and the Select Committee are content with the changes we make.
Mr John Whittingdale (Maldon) (Con): Does my right hon. Friend agree that soft power is all the more important in increasing understanding between ourselves and countries with which we may have differences of view? She has just referred to the forthcoming UK-Russia year of culture. May I invite her and the shadow Secretary of State to join me at the launch of that event in this place on 24 February, in advance of her attending the winter Olympics in Sochi?
I agree with my hon. Friend that there is a huge opportunity to utilise the role of culture in developing our relations with a whole host of nations. I was pleased to sign a cultural agreement with my counterpart on my recent visit to China, and in the past 12 months we have also signed a cultural agreement with South Korea. He is right that the UK-Russia year of culture will be an enormously important opportunity.
Mr John Whittingdale (Maldon) (Con): Thank you, Mr Benton, for this opportunity to debate the Select Committee on Culture, Media and Sport report, “Supporting the Creative Economy”. It was the result of a major inquiry, in which we took a great deal of evidence and came up with a wide range of conclusions. There has been a lot of interest in some of our proposals across the industry and the House. I thank Elizabeth Flood, the Committee’s principal Clerk, and all the staff for their hard work on this inquiry and others.
We are debating a great success story. There is no question but that in this country we are very good at creative industries. Since the report was published, the Department for Culture, Media and Sport has published the latest figures, which show that the creative industries are worth £71.5 billion to the UK economy and generate around 1.68 million jobs. They are a substantial part of our economic activity and are growing steadily. We are achieving ever greater success.
Those bare figures conceal remarkable achievements. In almost every sector of the creative industries that we have examined, there have been fantastic successes. The British film industry continued to produce some great films, and we have some of the greatest talent in the world, but we have also been remarkably successful in attracting highly mobile international investment to the UK to make films.
Mr Jim Cunningham (Coventry South) (Lab): I welcome the Committee’s report. Did the hon. Gentleman look at the arts and the financial contribution that they make to this country? He mentioned the film industry, but could he say something about the broader remit of the arts?
Mr John Whittingdale (Maldon) (Con): I welcome the debate as an opportunity to bring some light to the subject, rather than the large amount of smoke that has obscured it so far, but that might be a statement of hope, rather than experience.
It is important to bring some perspective to the debate. Gambling is a legitimate activity that brings considerable pleasure to millions of people in this country, that generates a lot of economic activity and that provides employment and tax revenue for the Government. Betting shops are not a blight on the high street; they are regulated and controlled environments that provide employment and, in some cases, a social benefit.
Steve McCabe (Birmingham, Selly Oak) (Lab): The hon. Gentleman says that gambling raises revenue for the Government, but in actual fact the Government receive about £3 billion a year in revenue and the profit on fixed odds betting terminals is about £1.5 billion. It costs the state £3.6 billion to deal with problem gamblers, so does not that suggest that this is bad economics?
Mr Whittingdale: I shall come on to problem gambling, but it is a myth to suggest that that is entirely a result of FOBTs. There is a difficulty due to problem gambling, and a small number of people suffer from addiction—of course they need some protection. It has always been a principle that the harder forms of gambling are permitted in more controlled environments. To that extent, it was something of an anomaly that the previous Government allowed B2 machines on the high street while there were restrictions on those machines in adult gaming centres and casinos. It was ironic, too, that the previous Government wanted to introduce category A gaming machines, for which there were no limits on stakes or prizes, in super-casinos. Perhaps those anomalies should have been addressed. That was why, when the Culture, Media and Sport Committee looked at the problem, we recommended allowing up to 20 B2 machines in casinos and some B2 machines in adult gaming centres.
Mr John Whittingdale (Maldon): I, too, congratulate my hon. Friend the Member for South Basildon and East Thurrock (Stephen Metcalfe) not just on securing the debate from the Backbench Business Committee but on how he has led the campaign, which has been supported on both sides of the House, as demonstrated this afternoon. It is a pleasure to follow the hon. Member for Swansea West (Geraint Davies), who has also been tireless in pursuing the matter. It is notable that four parties are represented in the House this afternoon. Sometimes MPs put aside their party differences and come together when it is plain that there has been an injustice that needs to be put right. That is certainly the case with the issue we are debating this afternoon.
There is a danger in such a debate that one simply repeats the points that have been made. We have already heard some powerful speeches from both sides of the House, such as that from my constituency neighbour, my right hon. Friend the Member for Chelmsford (Mr Burns), who represents many of the Essex Visteon pensioners, as I do. As has been pointed out, it is particularly sad that it is necessary to have this debate a second time—I participated in the debate in Westminster Hall—because we all still have great respect and admiration for the Ford Motor Company. It has a proud history in this country and a strong reputation across the world, yet this is a terrible stain on that reputation.
It is perhaps because Ford has previously been seen as such a strong company that it was understandable that its employees, who had given many years of service, should believe the assurances they were given when they told that they were being transferred to the Visteon company and that their pensions could be transferred to a new Visteon pension fund. I will not repeat the quotations given by many hon. Members about how they were told that there would be no detriment and that their pensions were guaranteed under the same terms and conditions. Of course they believed that, yet today they find that the position is very different.
Mr John Whittingdale (Maldon): Will the Secretary of State join me in welcoming the £1.5 million grant from the National Heritage Memorial Fund to save Stow Maries aerodrome in my constituency, which is the last remaining, intact first world war airfield? Does she agree that Stow Maries, from which pilots flew to defend us against zeppelin attacks, would be a fitting place to start the commemorations that her Department is planning?
Maria Miller: My hon. Friend is right to point out that there are not that many structures remaining for us to look at as part of our commemorations around the first world war centenary. I am sure that that airfield could play an important role in bringing this to life for new generations.
Mr Whittingdale: I am most grateful to you for making an exception in this case, Mr Speaker. As you are aware, Lord Triesman gave evidence to the Culture, Media and Sport Committee as part of our inquiry into the 2018 world cup bid. During his evidence, under parliamentary privilege, Lord Triesman made specific accusations of corruption against four named members of FIFA’s executive committee. In the subsequent review conducted by the Football Association, Lord Triesman was careful to say in answer to questions from James Dingemans QC, who was conducting the review, that he invited him to rely on the evidence that he had given to the Select Committee, and that he did not wish to add to it. In January 2013, one of those accused, Mr Makudi, brought an action for defamation against Lord Triesman, which was struck out. However, in June this year the Court of Appeal granted leave to Mr Makudi to appeal.
This matter goes to the heart of the privilege afforded to Members of Parliament and to witnesses who give evidence to Parliament. If witnesses to Select Committees cannot be confident that their evidence is covered by absolute privilege, and that if they do not repeat the allegations outside Parliament they are fully protected against legal action, that will severely damage the ability of Select Committees to obtain the information that they require. I should therefore be grateful, Mr Speaker, if you would consider what action you, or Parliament, can take to defend the principle of parliamentary privilege, which is a fundamental right enshrined in the Bill of Rights.
I have followed these matters very closely, and the possible implications give me cause for grave concern. As the hon. Gentleman knows, the matter is awaiting determination by the Court of Appeal, so I will not of course comment on the substance of the case; but I will say to the hon. Gentleman, and to the House, that I consider these matters to be of such importance for the House and for its Members, and to the protection of free speech in our proceedings, that written submissions have been made to the court on my behalf by Speaker’s Counsel. I shall of course be following developments closely, as, I know, will the hon. Gentleman. I am extremely grateful to him.
Mr John Whittingdale (Maldon) (Con): May I begin by reminding the House of my entry in the register showing that I paid a visit to Gibraltar in September, at the invitation of the Gibraltar Betting and Gaming Association, to discuss the provisions of the Bill?
Paul Farrelly: Will the hon. Gentleman give way on that point?
Mr Whittingdale: I am not sure that there is anything on that point, but I am happy to give way.
Paul Farrelly: Following the hon. Gentleman’s discussions over the summer with the Gibraltar-based companies, can he tell the House whether they are still minded to launch a last-minute legal action in Europe against these provisions? When he was there, did he discourage them from doing so?
Mr Whittingdale: The hon. Gentleman will have to ask the Gibraltar gaming authorities whether they intend to launch legal action. They have certainly expressed concern as to whether the Bill’s provisions are legal, and it is obviously up to them whether they take legal action. I made it clear to the authorities and the gaming associations that I supported the Bill, and that therefore I would certainly discourage them from doing so. They did raise some concerns, which I shall discuss in the course of my remarks.
I wish to make it clear that my Select Committee supports the Bill’s general provisions, as do I. The Committee has spent some time examining gambling. We carried out post-legislative scrutiny in 2011-12 of the entire Gambling Act 2005. Although we examined online gaming, which is obviously the most rapidly increasing form of gambling, inevitably the main focus on the 2005 Act related to casinos, the previous Government’s abortive attempt to introduce regional casinos—super-casinos—in the UK and the provisions relating to fixed odds betting terminals in betting shops. I do not propose to explore the latter issue at great length today, although it remains one of some controversy.
Hon. Members may recall that when that Gambling Bill became an Act, the then Secretary of State declared that one of its purposes was to make the UK the world centre for online gaming and that that would be of great benefit to the UK economy. Unfortunately, the then Chancellor of the Exchequer holed the then Secretary of State amidships by setting the tax rate at a level that led to almost every operator moving offshore. There is a single exception, which I am sure the hon. Member for Newcastle-under-Lyme (Paul Farrelly), my friend from the Select Committee, will mention: bet365 remains the last operator headquartered in the UK. Almost all the others have moved to offshore jurisdictions such as Gibraltar, Alderney and some European Union member states.
Mr John Whittingdale (Maldon) (Con): I very much welcome this opportunity to debate the arts and creative industries. Although I of course support the amendment in the name of my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister, in the spirit of consensus that the Select Committee on Culture, Media and Sport always tries to achieve, I have to say that I can find nothing in the motion tabled by the Leader of the Opposition that I disagree with.
As a believer in free markets, I am not normally a supporter of public subsidy. However, I am convinced of the benefits of public subsidy in the case of the arts—not just the economic benefits, which the Secretary of State quite rightly spelt out in her speech. The arts are hugely important to people’s quality of life in this country, as the right hon. and learned Member for Camberwell and Peckham (Ms Harman) said, and many other benefits flow from that in education, health, community cohesion and so much more.
Under the previous Government, the arts enjoyed years of plenty; under this Government, we are facing lean years for the arts. That is absolutely inevitable. This Government have the higher priority of trying to clear up the enormous mountain of borrowing and debt that we inherited, and it would be wrong to exclude the arts from having to play a part in that. However, when we on the Select Committee looked at funding of the arts immediately after the election, we said that it would result in some difficult decisions and that some institutions would probably close as a result. I am delighted to hear from the Secretary of State that she has done well in her debate with colleagues in the Treasury for this year’s spending settlement, but I understand from what I have read and what she has said that we can anticipate still further reductions. That means that more institutions will probably have to close, which will be a tragedy.
Mr John Whittingdale (Maldon) (Con): It is excellent news that visitor numbers and visitor spend rose last year to record levels, but my right hon. Friend will also be aware that the UK still slipped by one place, from seventh to eighth, in the list of top 10 destinations. Can she say what is being done to attract more visitors to the UK, particularly from China, many of whom are still being deterred by the cost and difficulty of obtaining visas?
Maria Miller: My hon. Friend is absolutely right to say that we always need to be actively marketing Britain abroad. That is where our GREAT campaign, with £37 million already invested, comes into its own. It is a campaign that this country can be proud of. As for visas, we have made significant improvements to the situation that we inherited. We have now seen an increase of, I believe, around 30% in visas from that country.
Mr John Whittingdale (Maldon) (Con): Is the Home Secretary aware of the growing concern regarding the actions of the police in some instances and the inactions of the police in others? Can she comment on the reports at the weekend that the police have uncovered widespread use of private investigators to hack telephones not just by journalists, but by lawyers’ firms and other corporations? Can she say why it appears that the police thought it right to tell Lord Justice Leveson about that, but not pursue any action against those who committed criminal offences?
Mrs May: My hon. Friend will be well aware that decisions on whether the police investigate individuals and alleged offences are an operational matter for the police, and that it is for the police, with the Crown Prosecution Service, to decide whether those investigations lead to charges and prosecution. However, I recognise the degree of concern that he raises. Phone hacking by some aspects of the press has caused disquiet in this House for some time. Suggestions that it could have been more widespread are, of course, equally worrying.
Mr John Whittingdale (Maldon) (Con): I agree with what my hon. Friend says about ambulance delays, but does she agree that this is a particularly severe problem in more rural areas, such as the Dengie peninsula, which I represent, where one survey of a patient group of a medical practice, the William Fisher medical centre, showed that patients had to wait for more than 40 minutes, and in some cases more than a hour, before the ambulance arrived?
Priti Patel (Witham) (Con): My hon. Friend is right. Many hon. Members have experienced horrific delays, particularly across our rural constituencies. I know of delays in excess of two hours. That is unacceptable. Lives are put at risk.
Mr John Whittingdale (Maldon) (Con): May I first join Members on both sides in congratulating my hon. Friend the Member for Stockton South (James Wharton) on a magnificent speech introducing his Bill?
My first act of political campaigning was to take part in the 1979 referendum campaign. I was not old enough to vote, I hasten to add. However, I did go around putting leaflets through doors. I did so, first, because as a Conservative I strongly believed in the free trade opportunities that the European Economic Community represented. I thought it would be good for our economy and for business. I was also in favour because of the statements in the leaflets I was putting through the doors, such as “The case for staying in the EEC”, which said that we would gain, not lose, effective sovereignty over our destiny, and that in the last resort we would be able to veto any proposal put forward in Brussels if we considered it to be against our vital national interests.
There was also the leaflet paid for by the taxpayer that went through every single door in the country which stated:
“No important new policy can be decided in Brussels or anywhere else without the consent of a British Minister answerable to a British government and British Parliament.”
Since that time, we have seen those assurances undermined time and again.
Mr John Whittingdale (Maldon) (Con): Does my right hon. Friend accept the first principle set out in Lord Justice Leveson’s report that any solution must be perceived as credible and effective by the press and the public? Does she agree that it would be infinitely preferable to achieve a system of press regulation that delivers the objectives of Lord Justice Leveson’s report, but which also commands the support of as many of the newspapers as possible, rather than a system which commands the support of none of them?
Maria Miller: My hon. Friend goes to the heart of the matter when he reminds the House of Lord Leveson’s statement that whatever we take forward, to be effective it must also be credible, and we must take the press and the public with us. It is vital that we do that. Nobody would thank us for putting in place a system that was ineffective, did not work and did not attempt to make sure that self-regulation of the press in this country is effective.
Mr John Whittingdale (Maldon) (Con): Will the Secretary of State confirm that it is the Government’s ambition that this should be the first of a series of investments in new nuclear generation? What are the Government doing to attract other potential investors who may be persuaded to look at designated sites, such as Bradwell-on-Sea in my constituency, which is already a model of successful decommissioning?
Mr Davey: Yes, we envisage a series of new nuclear power stations being built. I and other members of the Government have, on various trips, engaged in commercial diplomacy, meeting potential investors and nuclear companies in other countries, and there is huge interest in the nuclear market. When German companies RWE and E.ON put the Horizon consortium on the market everyone said, “This is a disaster. It shows that nuclear policy isn’t working.” Far from it. We had huge interest from around the world. Hitachi ended up paying nearly £700 million for the privilege of having the consortium, even before it had got its reactor design through the generic design assessment. That is the level of interest and the vote of confidence in our policy.
Mr John Whittingdale (Maldon) (Con): I congratulate my hon. Friend the Member for Vale of Glamorgan (Alun Cairns) on his success in obtaining this debate, which comes at a time when some serious questions need to be addressed. I do not want to detain the House for too long, because the Culture, Media and Sport Committee will take evidence tomorrow morning from the chairman of the BBC Trust and the director-general, so we will cover a lot of the issues in detail. We have also announced that we intend to hold a full inquiry into the future of the BBC, and that is likely to commence in the new year. That will provide an opportunity to examine these matters and I do not want to prejudge the inquiry. It is, however, worth spending a little time on the subject, because there have been some very difficult issues raised, and some very clear failures by, the BBC over the past year.
It is important not just to focus on criticisms, but to recognise that the BBC remains one of the finest broadcasters in the world and that, at its best, it is unequalled. That is not to say that one should just point at the successes. It is important that we look at the failures and see how they can be prevented from happening again.
Mr Nigel Evans: There was once a time when people said that only the BBC could do the arts and that it could not be done commercially. Does my hon. Friend agree that Sky Arts is now doing a tremendous job in providing arts to the masses, and that Classic FM on the radio provides classical music to a group of people who perhaps would never previously have listened to Radio 3? The onus is therefore on the BBC to keep raising the game. It does not have to chase the ratings, but it needs to ensure that it keeps providing high-quality programmes.
Mr Whittingdale: I am not in the least surprised to find that I agree completely with my hon. Friend, who was an excellent member of the Committee for a time. I will come on to this issue, but he is absolutely right that there has been a change in terms of the amount and diversity of content available. The advent of Classic FM, which is hugely successful, means that Radio 3 should no longer need to occupy the same space, but concentrate, as it does most of the time, on a little more challenging and difficult classical music than the more commercial Classic FM output. That applies equally in other areas.
Mr Whittingdale: To ask the Secretary of State for Business, Innovation and Skills which goods exported to North Korea were covered by UK Export Finance leading to North Korea's sovereign debt to UK Export Finance; when such exports took place; and whether the goods were supplied to the Government of North Korea or to private companies.
Michael Fallon: The debt has been outstanding since 1975 and relates to a contract dated 27 July 1972 for the supply of equipment and services for a petrochemical complex to the Korea Equipment Import Corporation.
Mr John Whittingdale (Maldon) (Con): What steps he plans to take to reform the law on copyright; and if he will make a statement.
The Secretary of State for Business, Innovation and Skills (Vince Cable): I am taking a number of steps to reform copyright law, in response to the Hargreaves review. Today, I am publishing the Government’s decision on changes to copyright exceptions, which I believe will achieve the right balance between creators, rights holders and users. The document, “Modernising Copyright: A modern, robust and flexible framework”, has been placed in the Library.
Mr Whittingdale: Does the Secretary of State agree that intellectual property rights and copyright underpin the success of our creative industries, which are so important to the economy? Is he concerned that many in those industries feel that the Government, on the back of the Hargreaves report, will dilute their intellectual property rights, not least in the area of exceptions to copyright law?
Vince Cable: The hon. Gentleman is right that the creative industries sector, which is crucial to the economy, depends heavily on intellectual property rights. However, we are dealing with a body of law that is extremely old—I believe that it goes back to Queen Anne. It certainly needs modification in the digital age. He is right that we need to move extremely carefully. That is why, over the last few weeks, we have been in discussions on some of the sensitive issues in relation to copying music and photography. When he studies the report in the Library, he will see that we have got the balance right between rights holders and liberalisation.
Mr John Whittingdale (Maldon) (Con): My right hon. Friend will be aware that my Committee—the Culture, Media and Sport Committee—has perhaps tested the boundaries of Select Committee powers more than most. The situation seems unsatisfactory in two areas. First, when we served warrants on Rupert and James Murdoch and Rebekah Brooks to appear before the Committee, it was not at all clear what the consequences would be had they failed to respond to that summons. Secondly, when we reported to this House that we believed we had been lied to by people who had given evidence to the Committee, it was, and remains, extremely unclear what the consequences of that are.
Sir Alan Beith: That is certainly true and I think it is one of the issues that will have to be examined by the Joint Committee, which is about to embark on this work. The problems are difficult to solve and affect only a few inquiries. They certainly affected the work of my hon. Friend’s Committee, which was notably successful in getting some potentially unwilling witnesses to appear before it. I congratulate him on what the Committee achieved.
It should be stressed that, for the vast majority of the time, Committees deal with willing witnesses who are very happy to come and be examined by us, even if, sometimes, they are critically examined. Most of the time, we are gaining information from willing witnesses. I will come in a moment to what happens when we deal with Government. So far as all other bodies and persons are concerned, the instances in which a draconian power might be required are very few. My hon. Friend is right that such powers as the House has in this area are not very easy to use, and we will have to further consider that issue.
Mr Whittingdale: To ask the Secretary of State for Culture, Olympics, Media and Sport (1) if he will make it his policy to finance the installation costs for filters to allow reception of digital terrestrial television following the adoption of 4G mobile technology in (a) households with amplifiers fitted and (b) multiple dwelling units; 
(2) what estimate he has made of the cost of installing filters to allow reception of digital terrestrial television (DTT) following the adoption of 4G mobile technology in (a) all DTT households, (b) DTT households with amplifiers fitted and (b) multiple dwelling units; 
(3) if he will make it his policy to finance the cost of filters where necessary for second television sets to continue to receive digital terrestrial television following the adoption of 4G mobile technology. 
Owners of properties with communal distribution systems will be provided with the filter appropriate to such equipment, free of charge. Ofcom estimate that approximately 20,000 multi dwelling buildings could be affected. Ofcom estimate that the typical cost for a fitting a filter for a communal aerial installation would be around £220, although it could be significantly lower, and that there are an average of 16 dwellings served by each system. For multi-dwelling units similar to a single household property the costs would be similar to those for single occupancy buildings. It is normally the responsibility of each landlord to maintain any TV signal distribution system in the property, and this should extend to the fitting of any filter that is required. In general, we are not proposing to fund the fitting-of filters in these cases.
The one in four homes with residents deemed to be “vulnerable”—that is they meet the eligibility criteria that have been used for the Switchover Help Scheme—will be entitled to. installation of the filter, if needed, free of charge, The cost of fitting these filters should be much less than for an antenna installation. Charges may vary from installer to installer but typically could be as low as £50 + VAT. All these costs will be met from the £180 million funding to be provided by the mobile network operators.
Support specifically for second and subsequent sets will not be provided. This is consistent with the approach we took in TV switchover where help was provided (to those eligible) for one set only. All homes living in the geographical area where they are predicted to experience interference to TV reception will be sent one filter with clear instructions for installation. This includes the 60% of homes whose primary viewing is on satellite or cable platforms who will be able to use the filter on a secondary set connected to an aerial.
The funding provision of £180 million is based on Ofcom estimates of the size of the expected problem and includes a significant margin. A breakdown of how Ofcom arrived at this figure is contained within their recent consultation on coexistence between new services in the 800 MHz band and digital terrestrial television.
Mr Whittingdale: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what assessment he has made of the likely effect on relations between Armenia and Azerbaijan of the release and repatriation of Ramil Safarov from prison in Hungary; and if he will make a statement. 
Mr Lidington: We welcome the statements of the right hon. Baroness Ashton of Upholland and Commissioner Fule, and the Organisation for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE) Minsk Group Co-Chairs, with regard to the pardon of Ramil Safarov, following his return from Hungary, and share their concern about the impact this may have on prospects for stability and peace in the region. We regret any action that is contrary to ongoing efforts to reduce regional tensions and promote reconciliation.
Moving forward, it is important that both sides exercise restraint—in actions and public statements—to prevent any escalation of the situation. Together with our EU and OSCE partners, we will continue to follow the situation closely and we stand together with the international community in supporting the OSCE Minsk Group Co-Chairs in their efforts to reduce tension and find a negotiated way forward to resolve the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict.
Mr John Whittingdale (Maldon) (Con): I echo what has been said by my hon. Friend the Member for Reading East (Mr Wilson) and my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State. The revelations of recent weeks raise serious questions, not just about the culture that existed in the BBC some years ago—and in other organisations—but about the way in which the BBC has handled the matter, and in particular the very damaging suggestion that the “Newsnight” investigation was suppressed. The director-general of the BBC has offered to appear before the Culture, Media and Sport Committee next week, and I am sure that my colleagues will wish to take up that offer.
Mr John Whittingdale (Maldon) (Con): We do not have a lot of time, and I do not want to detain the House unduly. However, although it is recognised that this matter forms only a small part of the Bill, the importance of the creative industries to our national economy, and the contribution that they are making to growth, is so essential that we need to look very carefully at anything that affects the livelihoods of those working there—and the creative industries rest on the protection of intellectual property rights.
On Second Reading, I suggested to the Secretary of State that clause 57—then clause 56—could be used to make substantial changes to copyright law through statutory instruments. I am grateful to him for meeting representatives of a wide range of creative industries to discuss those concerns. That has led, to some extent, to the amendment that the Government have tabled. As the Minister said, several representatives of the creative industries, such as UK Music, the British Copyright Council, the Publishers Association and the Premier League have said that they are now satisfied.
However, as the hon. Member for Hartlepool (Mr Wright) said, that is not a unanimous view across the industry. The Minister has assured us that this is about enforcing penalties but, despite the Government’s amendment, the clause does not mention penalties. I am therefore still not clear as to why the Government did not accept the suggestion that they make it absolutely explicit in the Bill that it is all about penalties. Instead, it talks about exceptions, and it still allows changes to be made to copyright law by statutory instrument. Following the Hargreaves report, there is still great suspicion on the part of many of those in the creative industries that there is an intention to try to dilute intellectual property rights. They fear that the clause could be used—perhaps not by this Government but by a future Government—to bring forward changes to copyright law.
Those fears have been expressed, as the hon. Member for Hartlepool said, by a wide range of organisations, including Associated Press, ITN, Getty Images, the Press Association, British Pathé, Agence France Presse and Deutsche Presse-Agentur. I will quote one sentence from the letter they have sent that sums up the problem that the Government face:
“It therefore remains our concern that…the true purpose of Clause 57…as drafted”
“it will be used as a vehicle to push through a number of changes to copyright exceptions recommended by the Hargreaves Review, which we discussed with you at our meeting because of the detrimental impact to business and the creative industries as well as…ultimately…to the UK’s future economic growth.”
I welcome the Minister’s assurance that that is not the Government’s intention, but it must be of concern that a number of organisations that are important to this country retain that suspicion. Anything that the Government can say or do now to allay that suspicion and make it clear that they do not intend to implement the Hargreaves recommendations in a bundle, via a statutory instrument, would be extremely welcome and would reinforce the point that the provision is not about that, but about criminal penalties.
Mr John Whittingdale (Maldon) (Con):It is a pleasure to serve under your chairmanship, Mr Hollobone. I am grateful for the opportunity to debate an issue that has so far received little attention, but one that will affect large numbers of people in this country quite soon. It is appropriate that we should be debating it today. This is the day on which 4G services have become widely available in a number of cities as a result of Everything Everywhere making use of the 1,800 MHz spectrum.
Understandably, the competitors to Everything Everywhere have been concerned that it should be given a lead and so have been pressing to be able to go ahead with the provision of their own 4G services, and to do that they require access to the 800 MHz band. The Culture, Media and Sport Committee, which I am proud to chair, also shared the view that we needed to get on with the allocation of spectrum for 4G, because 4G carries real benefit to the economy, and we did not wish to get left behind.
I am pleased that Ofcom is now pressing ahead with the auction. However, the use of 800 MHz for mobile telephony will have consequences. It will result in interference with the provision of services currently using that band, particularly digital terrestrial television.
Mr John Whittingdale (Maldon) (Con): Does my right hon. Friend agree that there is now almost universal agreement that we must have a strong new regulator, that it must be seen to be independent and that it must be established as quickly as possible? I strongly welcome his statement, however, that the question of whether the regulator should have statutory underpinning is something that Parliament needs to consider carefully, perhaps through a regular assessment of its effectiveness by the Culture, Media and Sport Committee, and that we should proceed to legislate only if it becomes absolutely clear that it will not function properly without it.
The Prime Minister: My hon. Friend makes an important point. He has probably spent more time looking at this issue than almost any other Member of the House of Commons. As he said, what matters is the enormous consensus about what independent regulation should consist of, including the powers that are necessary. We all know we need million-pound fines, proper investigations, editors held to account and prominent apologies. That is what victims deserve and what we must put in place, but he is right that we need to think carefully before we pass legislation in the House.
Over the past five years, the Culture, Media and Sport Select Committee, which I chair, has examined the issue of the standards and ethics of the press three times. Each time, what we have uncovered has caused us serious concern about the way in which the press operates in this country; we have revealed information that we all found truly shocking.
Mr John Whittingdale (Maldon) (Con):
It is important that we remember the people who have suffered at the hands of the press, including the McCann family, the Dowler family and Christopher Jefferies. However, it is also important to note that all in those cases suffered as a result of breaches of the law. Breaches of the Data Protection Act, the Regulation of Investigatory Powers Act 2000, the contempt of court laws and the libel laws were all involved in the suffering of those people.
That is one of the reasons that I agree strongly with the earlier remarks of the Chairman of the Home Affairs Committee, the right hon. Member for Leicester East (Keith Vaz). There are still big questions to be answered about how serial breaches of the law could take place in newsrooms and how the police appeared to do absolutely nothing about it, despite having the necessary evidence for a number of years. I very much hope that we will see the establishment of part 2 of the Leveson inquiry—whether it takes place under Lord Leveson or not is not the most important point—because we need answers to those questions once the criminal prosecutions have been exhausted.
Mr John Whittingdale (Maldon) (Con): It is a pleasure to serve under your chairmanship, Mr Caton. I know that you would probably rather be in the body of the Chamber, since you, too, have many constituents affected by this very sad affair. I congratulate my hon. Friend the Member for Finchley and Golders Green (Mike Freer) on his success in securing the debate—a number of us entered the ballot, but he was the one lucky enough to be selected. We have an opportunity for the many Members who represent people who have suffered as a result of what has occurred to speak. As others have done, I would like to single out my hon. Friend the Member for South Basildon and East Thurrock (Stephen Metcalfe), who has led the campaign so well and ensured that it remains in the public eye. I must first apologise to my hon. Friends and other Members. I have to chair a Select Committee at 10.15 am, so I will be brief. I am grateful to be called early. I will not repeat the facts that were set out so ably by my hon. Friend the Member for Finchley and Golders Green and the hon. Member for Swansea West (Geraint Davies).
The saga is fairly clear, but it is always important to bear in mind the real distress caused to individuals. I shall mention two. Mr McDonald of Danbury in my constituency was employed by Ford for 33 years and then spent four years working for Visteon. He believed the assurances given to him about the pay, conditions and pension entitlements, which would mirror those that he had enjoyed during his time at Ford, and he therefore agreed for his pension to be transferred. Another of my constituents, Mr Sharpe of Heybridge, was employed by Ford for 27 years and by Visteon for three months. Both those individuals have seen their pension reduced by 50%. They believed that the Pension Protection Fund would offer some protection, which I hope the Minister will say a little about in his reply. The PPF suggested that it would guarantee that such people would receive 90% of their pensions, but that has proved not to be the case, as a result of how the rules work and the cap that has been applied.
Mr John Whittingdale (Maldon) (Con): It is a pleasure to speak under your chairmanship, Mr Havard, and to have the opportunity to discuss the Select Committee’s report on football governance. This was a substantial inquiry by the Committee. It is worth remembering why the Committee decided that this was an important issue that deserved examination. There were two reasons, the first of which was the clear commitment given by both the parties that now form the coalition Government. It was clear that action needed to be taken, particularly to assist and encourage supporters to have greater involvement in the ownership and running of football clubs. That commitment appears plainly in the coalition agreement, although it was perhaps slightly less clear on precisely how it should be delivered. The Committee thought that it might be in a position to help the Government by taking evidence, examining that question and making recommendations.
However, this was not just about supporter involvement, although that is a very important element. It rapidly became apparent to us that there was quite significant concern among hon. Members on both sides of the House about the general state of our national game. A debate in this Chamber was extremely well attended by hon. Members, many of whom spoke up about the difficulties facing their local football clubs. There was widespread concern that something was wrong with the game. Perhaps that was best summed up by my hon. Friend the Minister, who famously described football as the “worst-governed sport” in England. I have to say that in the course of the Committee’s inquiry, we did not find much evidence to contradict what he said. However, we also found much to admire and praise about English football. There is no question but that it arouses huge passions up and down the country.
As I said, this was a substantial inquiry. We received more than 100 submissions of evidence. We held eight oral evidence sessions, to hear from every component part of the game. The Committee went on a number of visits. We went to Manchester City football club to see the huge investment that has taken place under its new owners. They have taken the club from the bottom levels to the top levels of the premier league. We went to Arsenal to see the Emirates stadium and to meet the management there. We held oral evidence sessions at Wembley stadium and Burnley football club. We also went to Germany. Looking at Germany’s model of licensing football clubs was a particularly influential part of our inquiry. It made quite an impact on the Committee.
I will not go through the whole report in detail, because many hon. Members are present and want to contribute and I hope that most of them have already read the report and are familiar with our findings.
Mr John Whittingdale (Maldon) (Con): Thank you, Mr Speaker, for this opportunity to debate the funding of the Olympics and Paralympics, although I hope that you will be generous in allowing us to examine the wider benefits that will flow from the funding of the Olympics.
It is now nearly seven years since the day on which it was declared that London would be the host city for the 2012 Olympic and Paralympic games, and I suspect that almost everyone will remember where they were and their reaction when the news was announced. It was undoubtedly fantastic news for Britain, and it was rightly celebrated, but I think that quite a lot of us also thought, “Oh dear, what do we do next?” One of the things that the Culture, Media and Sport Select Committee, which I chair, decided to do was to hold regular sessions to monitor and scrutinise the work being done to prepare for the greatest sporting event that this country has held. Over the past seven years we have held annual sessions with the chairmen and chief executives of the Olympic Delivery Authority and the London Organising Committee of the Olympic Games and Paralympic Games and with the Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport—first the right hon. Member for Dulwich and West Norwood (Tessa Jowell) and now my right hon. Friend the Member for South West Surrey (Mr Hunt).
It is worth observing at this point that one of the striking things about the policy towards and preparation for the Olympics is that not only did London’s bid enjoy cross-party support from the start, but in all the time since it was announced as the host city, despite occasional, small differences across the Chamber, which were inevitable, in the main both parties have worked well together. Certainly, I believe that my party did what it could to support the right hon. Member for Dulwich and West Norwood when she was Secretary of State, and since then she has worked with us to ensure that the preparations go ahead smoothly and are not marred by partisanship or political point scoring. We have now—
I am reminded by a cough that that applies not just to the two main parties. I pay tribute to the support and work throughout the entire seven-year period of the right hon. Member for Bath (Mr Foster), who has been a stalwart on behalf of the Liberal Democrats.
Mr John Whittingdale (Maldon) (Con): Will the Deputy Prime Minister join me and my right hon. Friend the Member for Chelmsford (Mr Burns) in congratulating the citizens of Chelmsford on their newly acquired status following Her Majesty’s announcement that Chelmsford is to be a city? Does he agree that it is entirely appropriate in Olympic year that Essex’s first city should be chosen when Essex is also looking forward to hosting the mountain biking competition during the Olympics?
The Deputy Prime Minister: I am not sure whether my hon. Friend the Member for Colchester (Sir Bob Russell) would entirely share that sentiment—we are all aware of the Colchester-Chelmsford rivalry. However, I can confirm the announcement today of the results of the civic honours competition in honour of Her Majesty the Queen’s diamond jubilee, namely that Chelmsford, Perth and St Asaph have been awarded the right to call themselves cities, while Armagh will from now on have a lord mayor. Although I know there will be disappointment in other communities that entered the contest, this is another announcement that will really lift the spirits of the nation in this, the year of the Queen’s diamond jubilee.
Mr John Whittingdale (Maldon) (Con): Will my right hon. Friend first confirm that, whatever his advisers may have said, the only advice that he took was from Ofcom, and that he followed it? Secondly, does he agree that usually in circumstances such as these the first thing the Opposition do is call for a judicial inquiry, and given that that is precisely what we have, is it not sensible to wait until it completes its work and not jump to conclusions?
Mr Hunt: My hon. Friend is exactly right, and given that the Leader of the Opposition has previously said that he thinks it is right that the Leveson inquiry should take its course—that the most important thing is that it gets to the bottom of what happened, of what Labour did, of what the Conservatives did, and we reach a judgment about that—it is curious that he is now trying to pre-empt its conclusions.
Mr John Whittingdale (Maldon) (Con): My hon. Friend referred to the Treasury’s own estimate that the measure may lead to a 30% reduction in demand. If that figure is correct, the measure will have a devastating effect on the parks in my constituency. However, I do not know whether my hon. Friend’s experience is the same as mine, but all my park owners are saying that they regard the 30% reduction as a gross underestimate. Osea leisure park, just one of those park owners, has told me that it believes that there could be a 60% reduction in demand for new homes.
Mr Stuart: My hon. Friend is absolutely right. Of course, many parks have made major investments, some of them—I hate to say it, as one hates to talk about vulnerable businesses—are highly geared, and if there is a chilling impact and eddies of demand, notwithstanding a little additional demand before 1 October, we could subsequently see more than a 30% reduction, which could result in the closure of manufacturers and park businesses that have invested for the longer term in this excellent British tourism industry.
Mr John Whittingdale (Maldon) (Con): Does my right hon. Friend accept that there is an urgent need to restore public confidence in the process that led to decisions in this matter and that to achieve that an inquiry needs to be held, in the open, in which witnesses give evidence in public, subject to cross-examination and under oath? Will he confirm that if at the end of that process there remain questions to be answered, he will refer the matter to the ministerial adviser—or it might be appropriate that it be looked into by a Select Committee of this House?
The Prime Minister: I can absolutely give my hon. Friend that assurance. I agree with him. Having seen some of the Leveson inquiry on television, I know that it is immensely powerful that people are questioned under oath, that all the documentation is carefully gone through and that questions on that documentation are properly followed up. As I say, that is far more robust than anything the independent adviser or the civil service could provide. As my hon. Friend says, I am not waiting for Leveson to complete his investigations. If at any stage information comes out that shows that anyone has breached the ministerial code, of course I will act. That is the right approach and I think people should respect the integrity of the fact-finding mission in which Leveson is engaged. It does not remove from me the necessity to police the ministerial code; that is my job and I will fulfil it properly.
That this House notes the conclusions set out in chapter 8 of the Eleventh Report from the Culture, Media and Sport Committee, Session 2010-12, on News International and Phone-hacking, HC 903-I and orders that the matter be referred to the Committee on Standards and Privileges.
Let me begin, Mr Speaker, by thanking you for granting precedence to this motion, which I move on behalf of all the members of the Culture, Media and Sport Committee. I am aware that the motion is unusual, if not almost unprecedented in modern times, but as the Committee set out in the conclusions to our report, we believe that the integrity and effectiveness of Select Committees relies on the evidence that we are given being given truthfully and completely. We therefore regard the finding of the Committee that we were misled by specific individuals as an extremely serious matter, and we think it only right that it should be brought to the attention of the whole House of Commons and referred to the Committee on Standards and Privileges. I apologise for throwing this hot potato into the lap of the right hon. Member for Rother Valley (Mr Barron), but I think that it is important that his Committee consider this matter, first, to establish whether my Committee was indeed misled in the evidence that it was given; and secondly, to deal with the perhaps rather more difficult question of what Parliament should do in response.
Mr John Whittingdale (Maldon) (Con): Does the Secretary of State accept that copyright is the legal expression of intellectual property rights, and is not a regulation? Is he aware of the widespread concern among the creative industries about clause 56, which will allow copyright to be amended by statutory instrument without full parliamentary debate? Will he assure the House that the Government will not change copyright in that way without proper parliamentary scrutiny?
Vince Cable: Yes, I can give assurances on that. We will deal with this subject later, but I totally accept the hon. Gentleman’s crucial point: intellectual property rights are a key part of a market economy. They are not “regulation” in the pejorative sense in which we normally refer to it—absolutely not; but we have to strike a balance between access to information and copyright protection. We think we are striking the right balance, and we are proceeding to implement the Hargreaves report, which has many of those ideas at its heart. On a personal level, I introduced the private Member’s Bill that strengthened criminal penalties for copyright theft, so I have a long-standing interest in upholding that legislation.
Let me deal with the first issue I mentioned—the green investment bank. The transition to a low-carbon economy is a very big challenge. Some analysis suggests that there will be demand for more than £200 billion of investment in the next decade to develop the innovative technologies and products that will underpin it. The challenge is all the greater, given the novelty of these markets and the long-term nature of returns on green infrastructure investment, which may deter private sector investors. There is a market failure here that the green investment bank will address. The bank will break new ground in the financing of projects, while demonstrating to the market that such investments can deliver commercial returns.
Mr John Whittingdale (Maldon) (Con): Can the Secretary of State confirm that the Saudi business man almost certainly exists? The Rachel Ehrenfeld case was heard in this country when there was no connection other than the 23 copies of her book that were sold, yet it resulted in the passage of the Libel Terrorism Protection Act in New York. It is a mark of shame against this country that New York state thought it necessary to pass an Act specifically aimed against this country.
Mr Clarke: I made my remark about the case being hypothetical to avoid being drawn into arguments about that case, which is rather familiar to people who know this subject. There are arguments about how far the plaintiff had connections with this country and a reputation here, but as it happens I was producing the example of a Saudi and an American purely hypothetically and I do not think I should get drawn into the merits of a past case. My hon. Friend, who is an expert in this field, rapidly understood why those particular nationalities had leapt to my mind when I gave the example.
Alongside these adjustments in the law to help support freedom of expression, I want to ensure that effective remedies are available for those defamed. Often what most concerns claimants is not financial compensation, but meaningful public clarification that a story was wrong. We have therefore included provisions in clause 12 extending existing powers to enable the court to order publication of a summary of its judgment. Parties will be encouraged to reach agreement, where possible, on the contents of the summary and issues such as where, when and how it is to be published. However, in the absence of agreement, the court will be empowered to settle the wording of the summary and give directions on those other matters.
In addition to protecting freedom of expression and reputation, the Bill seeks to modernise the law. Our biggest difficulty has been in relation to the web, the internet and so on. Currently, website operators are in principle liable as publishers for everything that appears on their site, even though the content is often determined by their users, but most operators are not in a position to know whether the material posted by their users is defamatory or not, and very often, faced with a complaint, they will immediately remove material. The Government want a libel regime for the internet that makes it possible for people to protect their reputations effectively, but which ensures that information online cannot be easily censored by casual threats of litigation against website operators.