Debates between Lord McNally and Baroness Bennett of Manor Castle during the 2019-2024 Parliament

Thu 23rd May 2024
Media Bill
Lords Chamber

Report stage & 3rd reading
Wed 6th Jan 2021
Trade Bill
Lords Chamber

Report stage:Report: 3rd sitting (Hansard) & Report: 3rd sitting (Hansard) & Report: 3rd sitting (Hansard): House of Lords

Media Bill

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Trade Bill

Debate between Lord McNally and Baroness Bennett of Manor Castle
Report stage & Report: 3rd sitting (Hansard) & Report: 3rd sitting (Hansard): House of Lords
Wednesday 6th January 2021

(3 years, 6 months ago)

Lords Chamber
Read Full debate Trade Bill 2019-21 View all Trade Bill 2019-21 Debates Read Hansard Text Read Debate Ministerial Extracts Amendment Paper: HL Bill 128-R-III Third marshalled list for Report - (22 Dec 2020)
Lord McNally Portrait Lord McNally (LD) [V]
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My Lords, as ever, it is a pleasure to follow the noble Baroness, Lady Kennedy. I also want to speak in support of the amendment. My intervention is based on a long-term commitment to seeing age-appropriate design embedded—as it was in the Data Protection Act 2018—activated and written into future legislation. That commitment owes much to the efforts and persistence of the noble Baroness, Lady Kidron, as has been noted by my noble friend Lord Clement-Jones and others.

My fears for the future of that commitment have not been helped by awaiting the implementation of the long promised internet harms Bill. The harms identified by the 2018 Act are real and present now, and delay leaves ongoing harms unchecked. For over a year I have been working with the Carnegie UK Trust on a paving Bill intended to ease the passage of the online harms Bill. In its briefing for this Bill, the Carnegie team had this to say:

“At Carnegie we remain concerned about the opaque nature of the discussions on the UK/US Trade Agreements and the risks that the wholesale imports of provisions relating to section 230 of relevant US legislation”—

that is, the legislation referred to earlier in the debate—

“may significantly restrict the ability of the UK to enact the systemic online harms regulation it intends”.

My concerns were further increased by the briefing from the 5Rights Foundation, which warns that the US tech lobby is working to ensure that US domestic legislation protects big tech companies from liability, and that that is written into all US trade agreements—a warning that Lord Sheikh emphasised.

If such clauses were to appear in a future UK-US trade deal, they would have a chilling effect on all the advances the UK has made to protect children online. So I believe that this amendment is necessary to protect safeguards already in law or proposed in future law, but which could be voided by clauses written into trade treaties.

I believe the good intentions expressed by the Minister, but we are only six days into our new liberties, so claiming that there are no problems is a little premature. I am a little worried about the self-styled buccaneers in his party, whose idea of behaving in accordance with commitments to the law may be equal to that of the old buccaneers.

Although the amendment would be a valuable addition to the Bill, we must also address the wider issue of the use of the royal prerogative in making treaties. There is an urgent need to review how Parliament deals with trade and other treaties. The 2010 Constitutional Reform and Governance Act—the CRaG Act—is now not fit for purpose. It was drawn up when we had already spent 30 years in the EU, which then had responsibility for our trade treaties. The CRaG Act is out of date, but so too is the concept of the royal prerogative, which is a useful fig leaf for giving Ministers power and preventing Parliament from having power.

A Government who came to power promising to return power to Parliament, not to the Executive, should really examine the CRaG Act, the royal prerogative, and how we handle trade treaties. As has been said, there are lots of Governments, chiefly the US Congress, who have powers to scrutinise. American Ministers, and other Ministers in the same situation, simply have to live with that kind of scrutiny. Let us pass this amendment, but let us then put down a firm marker that there is other work to be done before Parliament can regain sovereignty over treaties.

Baroness Bennett of Manor Castle Portrait Baroness Bennett of Manor Castle (GP) [V]
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My Lords, it is a pleasure to follow my noble friend Lady Jones of Moulsecoomb in thanking the noble Baroness, Lady Kidron, for tabling Amendment 23. My noble friend and I do not usually speak on the same amendment, but there is a particular range of issues that I want to speak to on this one—issues that no other noble Lords have addressed. I am talking about controlling advertising, a fast-rising area of concern.

When I talk about advertising I also mean some of the broader online issues such as product placement and payments to influencers, which are effectively indirect forms of advertising. This is where I agree with a comment made by the noble Lord, Lord Vaizey, yesterday, which may surprise the House. He expressed concern about differential controls on advertising for broadcasters in the UK, which do not apply online. Yet we know that consumption of media is very much blending now; indeed, the divisions between broadcast and online material, from consumers’ point of view, are pretty artificial these days.

In some areas we already have quite tight controls in the UK for broadcasters and others—on smoking advertising, for example, as well as some controls on gambling advertising, and limited controls on alcohol advertising. We have also seen, particularly in the London underground, controls on the advertising of unhealthy food. As we start to face up to our role as chair of COP26, and face the climate emergency and the nature crisis, a broader concern about advertising is rising, in relation to its place in driving consumption, and driving the destruction of our planet.

The amendment is about children in particular. It is Green Party policy that all advertising directed at primary school age pupils, who psychologists tell us cannot distinguish between advertising and programmes, or editorial content, should be banned. In the online context, it should be possible to create a situation in which we can protect children up to a certain age from online advertising.

I note that just before Christmas, on a question about gambling advertising, the noble Baroness, Lady Barran, speaking for the Government, said:

“We very much welcome moves by the major platforms that give individuals greater control”.—[Official Report, 14/12/20; col. 1518.]

over gambling advertising. Should a future Government decide to enforce even the rights of users to block advertising, I suggest that we do not want to see trade Bills stopping that happening.

I conclude by referring to what the noble Baroness, Lady Kennedy of The Shaws, said. What we are talking about here is giving guidance and democratic control—sovereign control—to our trade negotiators in future trade deals.