Arts

Lord Bassam of Brighton Excerpts
Thursday 1st February 2024

(3 weeks, 1 day ago)

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Lord Bassam of Brighton Portrait Lord Bassam of Brighton (Lab)
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My Lords, it is a great privilege to take part in this debate on the contribution of the arts to the economy and society. It is even more of an honour to take part in a debate led by my noble friend Lord Bragg. For most of my adult life, he has been the cultural advocate to follow and one whose opinions on the arts, artists and the art world have shaped much of the national conversation. His contributions have made the arts accessible and helped us all to see their value, rather than to see the artistic endeavour as remote, highbrow and elitist. With others, he has argued the place of popular culture—a legacy to celebrate, surely.

In my few comments, I will draw attention to the role that the arts can play in regeneration, in particular in seaside and coastal communities. Living in and running a coastal city has, inevitably, shaped my view.

In 2018-19, I chaired a Select Committee on the future of seaside towns. Our report painted a depressing picture of decline and lost opportunity—of once thriving seaside communities feeling disconnected and left behind. Health and education, caring services, public transport, access to the arts and culture—all had outcomes infinitely poorer than in our major cities. We charted this decline from the 1960s, when many seaside towns lost access to the rail network and Brits with rising living standards changed their holiday habits. We concluded that none of this was inevitable.

The committee visited Cornwall, Clacton, Skegness, Blackpool, Whitby and Scarborough, and Margate. We heard from councils, social commentators, cultural entrepreneurs, MPs, Ministers, architects, regeneration experts and, most importantly, local people. In short, we listened to those with a passion for those communities and their potential.

One thing came across strongly. The British people have not fallen out of love with the seaside—visitor numbers remain high. They just view the seaside and our coast in a different light. The successful coastal communities we visited had a strong cultural imprint and had invested in the arts, education and culture. Margate, St Ives, Penzance, Scarborough and Falmouth had all taken a leap of faith, and it was evidently paying off.

Take my own city: back in the 1960s and 1970s it was a semi-industrial tourist town in economic decline but with the Brighton Festival, the arrival of higher education and the development of a college of art, it has shifted from being Keith Waterhouse’s town that looks like it is

“helping the police with their inquiries”

to becoming the place to be. Now it is full of creatives, arthouses, art entrepreneurs, TV production companies, musicians, writers and performers. It has one of the UK’s highest business formation rates, many of them linked to the arts and the digital economy. The Brighton Festival, the Brighton Dome and the Royal Pavilion show an economic impact annually of some £60 million and support 1,200 jobs. It is an arts hub for the south.

Is this a miracle cure for the seaside economy? In itself no, but it is part of the answer. As we have heard, the arts have high levels of productivity, can be open and accessible, can deliver new skills, and are at the cutting edge of new technologies. The UK, partly because of the brilliant advocacy of the arts by my noble friend Lord Bragg, is a recognisable arts superpower. But just as decline is not inevitable, nor is success. The arts economy needs champions, risk-takers, well-shaped investment plans and a sense of national purpose, and it needs a Government—a Labour Government—who are confident, outward looking, invest in winners, help its arts exporters, and celebrate and value our successes.

Regeneration led by arts and culture has enormous transformative potential—just look at Dundee and the V&A’s impact—but we need support, a framework of renewal and a national plan for improving the seaside that embraces that potential.

Telegraph Media Group: Proposed Sale to RedBird IMI

Lord Bassam of Brighton Excerpts
Wednesday 31st January 2024

(3 weeks, 2 days ago)

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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

Lord Bassam of Brighton Excerpts
Wednesday 17th January 2024

(1 month, 1 week ago)

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Baroness Williams of Trafford Portrait Baroness Williams of Trafford (Con)
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My Lords, purely in terms of fairness, shall we hear from my noble friend Lord Grade?

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

Lord Bassam of Brighton Excerpts
Wednesday 13th December 2023

(2 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

Lord Bassam of Brighton Excerpts
Tuesday 24th October 2023

(4 months ago)

Grand Committee
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Lord Addington Portrait Lord Addington (LD)
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My Lords, when I looked at this, I thought I had one or two clever questions, but they have both been asked. It is one of those SIs which is basically a good idea but there are a series of “Yes, but what if it happens?” questions. The final point made by the noble Lord, Lord Young, that if you insure against this then maybe you could get the money out there and would be covered anyway might be an answer. I certainly had not thought of it, but it deals with the problem of getting the money, which is designed for a good cause and which you are holding, out there and letting it do the work.

I appreciate that we should hear about how everyone who is paid from this is using the money, benefiting from it and reporting back. Can the Minister say something about that? I declare a small interest as a trustee of the Atlas Foundation, which does this on a very small scale from privately arranged funds. Reporting back is very important to what we do because we have to know what has happened, usually in youth projects based around rugby football abroad. We have reports back so that we can see what is going on. The Government should let us know how this is happening.

The noble Lord, Lord Davies, made a point about additionality and the National Lottery. I wonder how many times that has been breached and whether it has now become the National Lottery’s normal activity to cover certain activities. It has been a great success and done positive things, but has it let the Government off the hook? I do not know. If we want a pointless activity, let us go through that and put the balancing scales up. My attitude is that we do not need to, as long as it gets done and we do not try to overload it.

How it is administered seems to be the major cause of concern. I do not know whether we are holding too much money back—whether for 15 or 20 years—and then giving the whole thing away. Are the Government or the Opposition thinking about whether they will challenge this in future? What is the Government’s long-term thinking on this? Helping good causes, most of which do well, and making sure you find out which ones do not is basically a win-win. It has been a successful scheme, so what are the Government doing to make sure that this momentum is maintained and that we continue to have good results? That is the only thing that could cause any controversy. It is a question of how they are monitoring it and making sure that it is doing this properly. There is also the principle of additionality. Is it doing something that other bits of legislation say are government activity, either local or national? With those caveats, which sound rather miserable as I look back at them, this should probably be supported.

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.

Royal Albert Hall Bill [HL]

Lord Bassam of Brighton Excerpts
Thursday 19th October 2023

(4 months, 1 week ago)

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Lord Bassam of Brighton Portrait Lord Bassam of Brighton (Lab)
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My Lords, as all other Peers have said this lunchtime, we are enormously grateful to the noble Lord, Lord Harrington of Watford, for facilitating this Second Reading debate. As I understand it, it is something of a rarity for private Bills of this kind.

We should also be grateful to the noble Lord for the transparent way in which he described and set out the Bill, and his particular role and interest. I thought I heard him say at some stage during his peroration that the Bill seeks to put questionable practices on a legal footing. We have heard the noble Baronesses, Lady Stowell and Lady Fraser, my noble friend Lord Chandos, the noble and learned Lord, Lord Etherton, and in particular the noble Lord, Lord Hodgson, set out their concerns with great eloquence and a very fine understanding of the legislation that underpins them. I also pay tribute to the noble Baroness, Lady Barker, for putting her finger on one of the major problems. We face something of a difficulty here, frankly, and we should face it honestly. We need to say at the end of all of this that the trustees need to reconsider their position.

That said, the Royal Albert Hall is a treasured cultural institution. These Benches recognise that. We recognise its value, its history and, very importantly, the need to safeguard its future for future generations. Indeed, as a charitable organisation—I declare an interest as an employee of a charity—one of its core missions is to preserve and enhance the wonderful grade 1 listed building that we are all very familiar with. Whether you attend the Proms—I was fortunate in the summer to listen to some fine examples of northern soul—go to a comedy show such as Les Patterson, for whom my noble friend Lord Chandos explained his love, or have a tour of the building, anyone who has visited there will have fond memories and stories to tell. Mine is from 1969, when I witnessed a fine performance by Jethro Tull, with Ian Anderson standing on one leg playing the flute—a sight to behold. I was 16 at the time; I must have escaped my mother’s clutches to get there. It was a memorable concert.

We recognise that, to safeguard the Royal Albert Hall’s future, its trustees must be able to generate new interest in it, and new income, and that this will largely focus on fundraising. However, as with everything in life, this is about balance. The charity’s other key mission is to promote the arts and sciences—its founding purpose, as set out by Prince Albert. We must never see that cause become secondary to the interests of fee-paying members.

Noble Lords will know, as many have expressed, that the past few years have not been an easy time for the arts. During the pandemic the Royal Albert Hall and other venues were forced to close their doors, with all the consequences that brought for venues, performers and others across the cultural industries. Although the Royal Albert Hall does not directly receive taxpayer funding, it does get grants. As others have said, the realities of the pandemic meant it got a sizeable loan from the culture recovery fund, of some £20 million.

Beyond Covid, changes to our relationship with the EU and other domestic schemes that support the arts have created other problems in the field. Although today is not the day to go into the specifics or to debate the rights and wrongs of certain policy decisions, we must consider this legislation in that wider context, and remember that the world around us is changing. Yes, venues and cultural institutions must adapt to changes in how people consume and participate in the arts, but they must also reflect other changes in consumer preferences, including an increased interest in fairness and transparency. The noble Baroness, Lady Fraser, expressed that rather well by drawing on charitable purpose as the basis of her argument.

That said, I can see why the Royal Albert Hall has brought forward these proposals. But they are too narrow. The provisions around additional seats in grand tier boxes would enable the corporation to raise money, while sparing the blushes of those who have already installed seats ultra vires.

This Bill goes into the Opposed Private Bill Committee process, and I can well understand, because of that, why noble Lords have been as forthright as they have in today’s debate. We owe a debt of thanks to the noble Lord, Lord Hodgson of Astley Abbotts, for his forensic take on the Bill and its impact.

Others will have noted the tabling of a petition against the Bill by Mr Lyttelton, in co-operation with the FanFair Alliance and the Court of the Worshipful Company of Musicians. That petition quite rightly raises the questions that have been raised today relating to the institution’s governance, the rights of its members, and the extent to which the proposed changes will impact on ordinary people’s ability to access the arts at an affordable price.

No doubt these topics will also be the subject of detailed discussion in the forthcoming Committee hearings, perhaps informed by the tabling of the amendments which the noble Lord, Lord Hodgson of Astley Abbotts, has drawn our attention to. For our part, we see merit in those amendments; we think they will begin to set this piece of legislation in the right direction, but we do need to get this right. We value the Royal Albert Hall and the work it has done to broaden its appeal and open its doors to new visitors. But we should not lose sight of the need for it to act quite properly as a charity.

As others have highlighted, the proposals raise questions about the charity’s aims, how they are delivered and whether the number of seat-owning members on the organisation’s council gives rise to clear conflicts of interest. I have read the Charity Commission briefing on this, and it is very clear. It says:

“These conflicts of interest are allowed under the charity’s governing documents. However, the situation has regularly attracted criticism and threatens to undermine public confidence in the charity”.


We should take that as a very clear warning. The Charity Commission has put on record its

“longstanding concerns about these inherent conflicts of interest”.

This Bill needs to tackle that issue. The Charity Commission suggests that

“the board of trustees should have enough independent members to enable it to be quorate without the participation of seat-holders or those appointed by seat-holders. The Private Bill does not make provision for these improvements”,

but they could be addressed either in the constitution or in legislation.

Previous attempts to get clarity on this have been blocked by the Attorney-General, and one wonders why that might be the case. This Bill does not deal with the core issues regarding those conflicts, and until those issues are properly dealt with, it is a piece of legislation which it is very hard to see our side of the House supporting.

I spoke earlier of balance; I am convinced that there could be a way forward that will support the future of the Royal Albert Hall in a manner that delivers fairer access to the arts that it hosts. But that cannot be as a profitable sideline for those seat-holders who get a benefit from the Royal Albert Hall acting as a charity in the way in which they do. So I too am drawn to the conclusion echoed by the noble Baroness, Lady Fraser, that this piece of legislation is a missed opportunity, and these Benches will not support it in its current form.

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Lord Harrington of Watford Portrait Lord Harrington of Watford (Con)
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My noble friend makes his point clearly and with great lucidity, as ever.

Quite a few points were made about the Covid loan—as has been said, it was given according to the decision of an independent committee that DCMS, I presume, appointed for all the loans that took place—and whether surplus money should be used to pay back the loan early to the Government. Any charitable body which has a loan that it can pay back at 2% would not be doing its duty for charitable purposes if it did not invest it in something that would perhaps pay back at 4%. I do not believe that that point is relevant to the conflict of interest issue.

The valuation of seats was raised. My noble friend Lord Hodgson believes that seats should be valued by an independent evaluator nominated by the Charity Commission, or put through the Charity Commission. I remind him that, although the clause says that the trustees should take professional advice, all trustees, whether they are appointed, like me, or are seat-holders, are subject to the duties of trustees under the Charities Act, which means that they would be in breach of that duty if they sold them at less than the available market price. One noble Lord told me that some of these seats have already been allocated and sold. I am not aware of that, but I intend to find out. I would disapprove most strongly if that were the case, but I do not believe it is.

The noble and learned Lord, Lord Etherton, made, as one would expect, a very significant contribution regarding the legal aspect. He made a point about charities having separate commercial entities. I have some experience of that, having been chairman of a charity that had a separate commercial entity. That happens all the time. However, that is different because the commercial entity of the charity is set up for that purpose. In the case of the hall, the commercial interests are owned by the seat-holders. From that perspective, they are there in two capacities: because they are selling their seats and because they are trustees of the hall, trying to enforce its charitable purposes.

Lord Bassam of Brighton Portrait Lord Bassam of Brighton (Lab)
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There is a point which we need to reflect on. In putting his argument, the noble Lord is seeking to protect those who have a conflict of interest. He is right that the hall can have a commercial side to its charitable practice, but it cannot surely be right that seat-holders be able to exploit its being a charity. Those seats are sold by seat-holders at a vastly inflated commercial rate that reveals no benefit to the hall itself. That is one of the fundamental objections we have voiced clearly today. Until this legislation answers that question, I cannot see the merit in having it before us.

Lord Harrington of Watford Portrait Lord Harrington of Watford (Con)
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I thank the noble Lord for that. He made it clear that he felt that his Benches would not be able to support the Bill in its current form, but I do not think that is particularly important today, because I think the last time a Private Bill such as this was divided on was in the 1930s. If I remember correctly, it was a railways Bill.

It has been my duty and pleasure to propose this Bill—perhaps a masochistic form of pleasure, given what has been said in the past couple of hours. The serious point is that I am proud to be a trustee of this charity, and I believe that the trustees act in a manner commensurate with its interests. If I had experienced any conflict of interest or if any decision of the council had been taken that was in conflict with the hall’s charitable purposes, I would not only have resigned but publicised the reasons for doing so. However, I have not found that up to now.

Commonwealth Games

Lord Bassam of Brighton Excerpts
Thursday 7th September 2023

(5 months, 2 weeks ago)

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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.

Arts and Creative Industries: Freelancers and Self-employed Workers

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Thursday 15th June 2023

(8 months, 1 week ago)

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Lord Bassam of Brighton Portrait Lord Bassam of Brighton (Lab)
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My Lords, we are agreed that the creative sector, more than most, is reliant on self-employment and freelancing because of its inherent flexibility. Commissioning is now at the heart of media employment and underlines the need for supportive policies. These should start with a rethink over the apprenticeship levy; reforming this is key to ensuring we have a continued pipeline of talent across the creative sector. Repeated personal tax rises and the Tory mortgage penalty mean that freelancers who lack predictable hours and income are finding it harder than ever to plan their finances and futures.

Rather than fostering our creative industries, the Government first attacked the reputation of Channel 4 then abandoned their policy of privatisation, which put at risk commissions and jobs that were organised through that process. Delays to the media Bill also do not help much of the freelance sector. The Government could recognise and support the UK’s role as a global creative centre and a major exporter of cultural output. They could boost our creative industries with a creative compact, and work in partnership with businesses to grow in creative clusters across the country; strengthening the Creative Industries Council would also help. They could build a more productive relationship with the EU to make Brexit work, enabling touring musicians and performers to move between the UK and the EU, by pushing for a visa waiver. They could work with the creative industries and tech sector to grow the economy and build a strategy that people can be proud of.

Finally, a parochial plea to the Minister to examine the future of the Brighton centre for contemporary arts and, with his DfE colleagues, intervene to preserve its integrity and prevent its closure. Losing the BCCA would be a hammer blow to Brighton’s role as a centre of cultural excellence and a cultural capital in the south. We have already lost the first exhibition of Turner Prize-winner and Brighton resident Helen Cammock’s work, through the cancellation of her exhibition. Cuts equal cancellation: my city needs the Minister’s help.

Football Matches: Violence

Lord Bassam of Brighton Excerpts
Wednesday 14th June 2023

(8 months, 2 weeks ago)

Lords Chamber
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Asked by
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.

Moved by
185A: After Clause 73, insert the following new Clause—
“Duties on providers of online marketplace services
(1) This section sets out duties that apply in relation to providers of online marketplace services.(2) A duty to put in place proportionate systems and processes to prevent child users from encountering listings of knives for sale on the platform, including (where appropriate) excluding relevant listings from advertising or other algorithms.(3) A duty to put in place proportionate systems and processes to identify and remove listings of knives or similar products which are marketed in a manner which would reasonably appear to a user to—(a) promote violence or threatening behaviour,(b) encourage self-harm, or(c) look menacing. (4) A duty to put in place proportionate systems and processes to ensure, beyond reasonable doubt, that any purchaser of a knife meets or exceeds the minimum legal age for purchasing such items.(5) For the purposes of this section, the online marketplace may have regard to different age restrictions in different parts of the United Kingdom.(6) For the purposes of subsection (3)(c), a knife may look menacing if it is, or appears to be similar to, a “zombie knife”, “cyclone knife” or machete.(7) In this section, “online marketplace service” means a service using software, including a website, part of a website or an application, operated by or on behalf of a trader, which allows consumers to conclude distance contracts with other traders or consumers.”Member’s explanatory statement
This new Clause would introduce duties on online marketplaces to limit child access to listings of knives, and to take proactive steps to identify and remove any listings of knives or similar products which refer to violence or self-harm. While online sales of knives are not illegal, under-18s (under-16s in Scotland) should not be able to purchase them.
Lord Bassam of Brighton Portrait Lord Bassam of Brighton (Lab)
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My Lords, I have Amendments 185A and 268AA in this group. They are on different subjects, but I will deal with them in the same contribution.

Amendment 185A is a new clause that would introduce duties on online marketplaces to limit child access to listings of knives and take proactive steps to identify and remove any listings of knives or products such as ornamental zombie knives that are suggestive of acts of violence or self-harm. I am sure the Minister will be familiar with the Ronan Kanda case that has given rise to our bringing this amendment forward. The case is particularly horrible; as I understand it, sentencing is still outstanding. Two young boys bought ninja blades and machetes online and ultimately killed another younger boy with them. It has been widely featured in news outlets and is particularly distressing. We have had some debate on this in another place.

As I understand it, the Government have announced a consultation on this, among other things, looking at banning the sale of machetes and knives that appear to have no practical use other than being designed to look menacing or suitable for combat. We support the consultation and the steps set out in it, but the amendment provides a chance to probe the extent to which this Bill will apply to the dark web, where a lot of these products are available for purchase. The explanatory statement contains a reference to this, so I hope the Minister is briefed on the point. It would be very helpful to know exactly what the Government’s intention is on this, because we clearly need to look at the sites and try to regulate them much better than they are currently regulated online. I am especially concerned about the dark web.

The second amendment relates to racist abuse; I have brought the subject before the House before, but this is rather different. It is a bit of a carbon copy of Amendment 271, which noble Lords have already debated. It is there for probing purposes, designed to tease out exactly how the Government see public figures, particularly sports stars such as Marcus Rashford and Bukayo Saka, and how they think they are supposed to deal with the torrents of racist abuse that they receive. I know that there have been convictions for racist content online, but most of the abuse goes unpunished. It is not 100% clear that much of it will be identified and removed under the priority offence provisions. For instance, does posting banana emojis in response to a black footballer’s Instagram post constitute an offence, or is it just a horrible thing that people do? We need to understand better how the law will act in this field.

There has been a lot of debate about this issue, it is a very sensitive matter and we need to get to the bottom of it. A year and a half ago, the Government responded to my amendment bringing online racist abuse into the scope of what is dealt with as an offence, which we very much welcomed, but we need to understand better how these provisions will work. I look forward to the Minister setting that out in his response. I beg to move.

Lord Allan of Hallam Portrait Lord Allan of Hallam (LD)
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My Lords, I rise to speak primarily to the amendments in the name of my noble friend Lord Clement-Jones, but I will also touch on Amendment 268AA at the same time. The amendments that I am particularly interested in are Amendments 200 and 201 on regulatory co-operation. I strongly support the need for this, and I will illustrate that with some concrete examples of why this is essential to bring to life the kinds of challenges that need to be dealt with.

The first example relates to trying to deal with the sexual grooming of children online, where platforms are able to develop techniques to do that. They can do that by analysing the behaviour of users and trying to detect whether older users are consistently trying to approach younger users, and the kind of content of the messages they may be sending to them where that is visible. These are clearly highly intrusive techniques. If a platform is subject to the general data protection regulation, or the UK version of that, it needs to be very mindful of privacy rights. We clearly have, there, two potentially interested bodies in the UK environment. We have the child protection agencies, and we will have, in future, Ofcom seeking to ensure that the platform has met its duty of care, and we will have the Information Commission’s Office.

A platform, in a sense, can be neutral as to what it is instructed to do by the regulator. Certainly, my experience was that the platforms wanted to do those kinds of activities, but they are neutral in the sense that they will do what they are told is legal. There, you need clarity from the regulators together to say, “Yes, we have looked at this and you are not going to do something on the instruction of the child safety agency and then get criticised, and potentially fined, by the Data Protection Agency for doing the thing you have been instructed to do”—so we need those agencies to work together.

The second example is in the area of co-operation around antiterrorism, another key issue. The platforms have created something called the Global Internet Forum to Counter Terrorism. Within that forum, they share tools and techniques—things such as databases of information about terrorist content and systems that you can use to detect them—and you are encouraged within that platform to share those tools and techniques with smaller platforms and competitors. Clearly, again, there is a very significant set of questions, and if you are in a discussion around that, the lawyers will say, “Have the competition lawyers cleared this?” Again, therefore, something that is in the public interest—that all the platforms should be using similar kinds of technology to detect terrorist content—is something where you need a view not just from the counterterrorism people but also, in our case, from the Competition and Markets Authority. So, again, you need those regulators to work together.

The final example is one which I know is dear to the heart of the noble Baroness, Lady Morgan of Cotes, which is fraudsters, which we have dealt with, where you might have patterns of behaviour where you have information that comes from the telecoms companies regulated by Ofcom, the internet service providers, regulated by Ofcom, and financial institutions, regulated by their own family of regulators—and they may want to share data with each other, which is something that is subject to the Information Commission’s Office again. So, again, if we are going to give platforms instructions, which we rightly do in this legislation, and say, “Look, we want you to get tougher on online fraudsters; we want you to demonstrate a duty of care there”, the platforms will need—certainly those regulators: financial regulators, Ofcom and the Information Commissioner’s Office—to sort those things out.

Having a forum such as the one proposed in Amendment 201, where these really difficult issues can be thrashed out and clear guidance can be given to online services, will be much more efficient than what sometimes happened in the past, where you had the left hand and the right hand of the regulatory world pulling you in different directions. I know that we have the Digital Regulation Cooperation Forum. If we can build on those institutions, it is essential and ideal that they have their input before the guidance is issued, rather than have a platform comply with guidance from regulator A and then get dinged by regulator B for doing the thing that they have been instructed to do.

That leads to the very sensible Amendment 201 on skilled persons. Again, Ofcom is going to be able to call in skilled persons. In an area such as data protection, that might be a data protection lawyer, but, equally, it might be that somebody who works at the Information Commissioner’s Office is actually best placed to give advice. Amendment 200—the first of the two that talks about skilled persons being able to come from regulators—makes sense.

Finally, I will touch on the issues raised in Amendment 268AA—I listened carefully and understand that it is a probing amendment. It raises some quite fundamental questions of principle—I suspect that the noble Baroness, Lady Fox, might want to come in on these—and it has been dealt with in the context of Germany and its network enforcement Act: I know the noble Lord, Lord Parkinson of Whitley Bay, can say that in the original German. That Act went in the same direction, motivated by similar concerns around hate speech.

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Lord Bassam of Brighton Portrait Lord Bassam of Brighton (Lab)
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My Lords, when I brought an amendment to a police Bill, my local football club said to me that it was anticipating spending something like £100,000 a year trying to create and develop filters, which were commercially available, to stop its footballers being able to see the abuse that they were getting online. It did that for a very sensible commercial reason because those footballers’ performance was affected by the abuse they got. I want to know how the noble Lord sees this working if not by having some form of intervention that involves the platforms. Obviously, there is a commercial benefit to providers of filters et cetera, but it is quite hard for those who have been victims to see a way to make this useful to them without some external form of support.

Lord Clement-Jones Portrait Lord Clement-Jones (LD)
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I absolutely take what the noble Lord is saying, and I am not saying that the platforms do not have responsibility. Of course they do: the whole Bill is about the platforms taking responsibility with risk assessment, adhering to their terms of service, transparency about how those terms are operating, et cetera. It is purely on the question of whether they need to be reporting that content when it occurs. They have takedown responsibilities for illegal content or content that may be seen by children and so on, but it is about whether they have the duty to report to the police. It may seem a relatively narrow point, but it is quite important that we go with the framework. Many of us have said many times that we regret the absence of “legal but harmful” but, given where we are, we basically have to go with that architecture.

I very much enjoyed listening to the noble Baroness, Lady Bennett. There is no opportunity lost in the course of the Bill to talk about ChatGPT or GPT-4, and that was no exception. It means that we need to listen to how young people are responding to the way that this legislation operates. I am fully in favour of whatever mechanism it may be. It does not need to be statutory, but I very much hope that we do not treat this just as the end of the process but will see how the Bill works out and will listen and learn from experience, and particularly from young people who are particularly vulnerable to much of the content, and the way that the algorithms on social media work.

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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.

Amendment 185A withdrawn.