Telegraph Media Group Ltd: Acquisition

Debate between Lord McNally and Lord Parkinson of Whitley Bay
Wednesday 1st May 2024

(1 month, 3 weeks ago)

Lords Chamber
Read Full debate Read Hansard Text Read Debate Ministerial Extracts
Lord McNally Portrait Lord McNally (LD)
- Hansard - -

Yes, the cricket.

We welcome this Statement. Sometimes I am teased by my colleagues about my membership of the Puttnam committee on the Communications Act 2003, but actually the Puttnam amendment to that Act is the origin of the powers that the Secretary of State has used here. The Puttnam amendment widened the reasons for Secretary of State interventions and has been used very usefully at key times in the last 20 years. In terms of these bids for purchase of our media, it means that we are able to take in the wider public interest and we support the Secretary of State in so doing.

I am not naturally a supporter of RedBird IMI, but I have some sympathy for the question of whether it is fair to either would-be bidders or the wider public interest to be so behind the curve and reactive when such bids arise. Media ownership is becoming more interlocking and intertwined between print, broadcasting and online. In many ways, although they might not like it, print journalists are becoming almost like the hand-loom weavers in the world of fast-moving technological change—and that is before we feel the full impact of artificial intelligence on the sector.

I would like to probe the Minister. Yesterday, Sir John Whittingdale in the other place pointed out that

“it is six years since Ofcom said that there needs to be fundamental review of our media merger regime”.—[Official Report, Commons, 30/4/24; col. 165.]

I agree with him, and I ask the Minister whether the Government are actively considering such a review.

With the Media Bill now before this House, will the Government seek cross-party agreement on clarifying and strengthening our media ownership rules for the future? I see the noble Baroness, Lady Stowell, is in her place. She has already put down an amendment to the Media Bill which could take this forward, but I think it could be done much more comprehensively at this time. If we do not do it comprehensively at this time, we will find that we have another 20 years of drift and that we are behind the game. It is essential that we have in place protection from foreign influences and state players, while, as the noble Lord, Lord Bassam, emphasised, seeing sustained plurality in both ownership and opinion in a free press—as all sides of the House want.

Lord Parkinson of Whitley Bay Portrait The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Department for Culture, Media and Sport (Lord Parkinson of Whitley Bay) (Con)
- View Speech - Hansard - - - Excerpts

My Lords, I should reassure the noble Lord, Lord Bassam of Brighton, that the Government do not always agree with the editorial line of the Telegraph either, but that is the point. The independence of the press, holding Governments of all colours to account, is why the Secretary of State has always taken this so seriously and used the powers available to her under the Enterprise Act in the way that she has. It is why, as I outlined in debates on the digital markets Bill, we have acted to put beyond doubt and make explicit the ability for her to act in this scenario following the concerns raised, not least by my noble friend Lady Stowell of Beeston, about the potential influence of foreign Governments over our newspapers.

I am grateful to both noble Lords, Lord Bassam and Lord McNally, for their comments and their welcome of the Statement. I am grateful to the noble Lord, Lord McNally, for recalling rightly the role that Lord Puttnam played in the legislative landscape, which the Secretary of State and her predecessors have been able to use in this important area.

The noble Lord, Lord Bassam, referred to the balance between taking action to preserve the freedom of press, which we hold dear as a cornerstone of our democracy, and attracting investment into the UK. We have always been clear, as have my noble friend Lady Stowell and others, that our actions in relation to the potential influence of foreign Governments are not prejudicial to our welcoming of foreign investment more generally in media businesses, and I am glad to have the opportunity to say that again.

The noble Lord, Lord Bassam, asked about consultation with trade unions. The Government will not be engaging with potential buyers or be involved in the sale process from this stage on. We have obviously been careful in the stages so far. From now on, it will be run by RedBird IMI alone. The Secretary of State made her decision based on the evidence provided by Ofcom and the Competition and Markets Authority, which issued a call for evidence and spoke to relevant parties. The unions could have made representations to both those bodies—whether they did or not, I do not know, but that is the appropriate way for views to be fed in. The noble Lord is right to refer to the people whose jobs and livelihoods depend on this. Some of them, who have jobs that allow them to write freely, have made those points, but there are many more people whose jobs in these important sectors are affected by it, which I am happy to acknowledge.

On timelines, RedBird IMI will now proceed with a sale of the call option. The details of that are not finalised, and it would not be appropriate for me to comment further on the next steps as they are a commercial matter. I will say, as the Secretary of State has, that she will monitor the outcome with a view to deciding in due course if she should take any further regulatory action under the Enterprise Act.

The noble Lord, Lord McNally, asked about our consideration of the media mergers regime more broadly. That work was already under way before this issue came to a head. We have taken the action that we have in the digital markets Bill. That action continues, and we will have more to say on that, not least during our debates on the Media Bill. I know that he and others will rightly use this as an opportunity to return to these matters.

Online Safety Bill

Debate between Lord McNally and Lord Parkinson of Whitley Bay
Lord Parkinson of Whitley Bay Portrait Lord Parkinson of Whitley Bay (Con)
- View Speech - Hansard - - - Excerpts

My Lords, I am grateful to noble Lords for their comments, and for the recognition from the noble Lord, Lord Knight, of the changes that we have made. I am particularly grateful to him for having raised media literacy throughout our scrutiny of this Bill.

His Amendments 269C and 269D seek to set a date by which the establishment of the advisory committee on misinformation and disinformation must take place and to set requirements for its first report. Ofcom recognises the valuable role that the committee will play in providing advice in relation to its duties on misinformation and disinformation, and has assured us that it will aim to establish the committee as soon as is reasonably possible, in recognition of the threats posed by misinformation and disinformation online.

Given the valuable role of the advisory committee, Ofcom has stressed how crucial it will be to have appropriate time to appoint the best possible committee. Seeking to prescribe a timeframe for its implementation risks impeding Ofcom’s ability to run the thorough and transparent recruitment process that I am sure all noble Lords want and to appoint the most appropriate and expert members. It would also not be appropriate for the Bill to be overly prescriptive on the role of the committee, including with regard to its first report, in order for it to maintain the requisite independence and flexibility to give us the advice that we want.

Amendment 269AA from the noble Lord, Lord Clement-Jones, seeks to add advice on content provenance to the duties of the advisory committee. The new media literacy amendments, which update Ofcom’s media literacy duties, already include a requirement for Ofcom to take steps to help users establish the reliability, accuracy and authenticity of content found on regulated services. Ofcom will have duties and mechanisms to be able to advise platforms on how they can help users to understand whether content is authentic; for example, by promoting tools that assist them to establish the provenance of content, where appropriate. The new media literacy duties will require Ofcom to take tangible steps to prioritise the public’s awareness of and resilience to misinformation and disinformation online. That may include enabling users to establish the reliability, accuracy and authenticity of content, but the new duties will not remove content online; I am happy to reassure the noble Baroness, Lady Fox, on that.

The advisory committee is already required under Clause 141(4)(c) to advise Ofcom on its exercise of its media literacy functions, including its new duties relating to content authenticity. The Bill does not stipulate what tools service providers should use to fulfil their duties, but Ofcom will have the ability to recommend in its codes of practice that companies use tools such as provenance technologies to identify manipulated media which constitute illegal content or content that is harmful to children, where appropriate. Ofcom is also required to take steps to encourage the development and use of technologies that provide users with further context about content that they encounter online. That could include technologies that support users to establish content provenance. I am happy to reassure the noble Lord, Lord Clement-Jones, that the advisory committee will already be required to advise on the issues that he has raised in his amendment.

On media literacy more broadly, Ofcom retains its overall statutory duty to promote media literacy, which remains broad and non-prescriptive. The new duties in this Bill, however, are focused specifically on harm; that is because the of nature of the Bill, which seeks to make the UK the safest place in the world to be online and is necessarily focused on tackling harms. To ensure that Ofcom succeeds in the delivery of these new specific duties with regard to regulated services, it is necessary that the regulator has a clearly defined scope. Broadening the duties would risk overburdening Ofcom by making its priorities less clear.

The noble Baroness, Lady Bull—who has been translated to the Woolsack while we have been debating this group—raised media literacy for more vulnerable users. Under Ofcom’s existing media literacy programme, it is already delivering initiatives to support a range of users, including those who are more vulnerable online, such as people with special educational needs and people with disabilities. I am happy to reassure her that, in delivering this work, Ofcom is already working not just with expert groups including Mencap but with people with direct personal experiences of living with disabilities.

The noble Lord, Lord Clement-Jones, raised Ofsted. Effective regulatory co-ordination is essential for addressing the crosscutting opportunities and challenges posed by digital technologies and services. Ofsted will continue to engage with Ofcom through its existing mechanisms, including engagement led by its independent policy team and those held with Ofcom’s online safety policy director. In addition to that, Ofsted is considering mechanisms through which it can work more closely with Ofcom where appropriate. These include sharing insights from inspections in an anonymised form, which could entail reviews of its inspection bases and focus groups with inspectors, on areas of particular concern to Ofcom. Ofsted is committed to working with Ofcom’s policy teams to work these plans up in more detail.

Lord McNally Portrait Lord McNally (LD)
- Hansard - -

My Lords, could I ask the Minister a question? He has put his finger on one of the most important aspects of this Bill: how it will integrate with the Department for Education and all its responsibilities for schools. Again, talking from long experience, one of the worries is the silo mentality in Whitehall, which is quite often strongest in the Department for Education. Some real effort will be needed to make sure there is a crossover from the powers that Ofcom has to what happens in the classroom.

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

I hope what I have said about the way that Ofsted and Ofcom are working together gives the noble Lord some reassurance. He is right, and it is not just in relation to the Department for Education. In my own department, we have discussed in previous debates on media literacy the importance of critical thinking, equipping people with the sceptical, quizzical, analytic skills they need—which art, history and English literature do as well. The provisions in this Bill focus on reducing harm because the Bill is focused on making the UK the safest place to be online, but he is right that media literacy work more broadly touches on a number of government departments.

Amendment 274BA would require Ofcom to promote an understanding of how regulated services’ business models operate, how they use personal data and the operation of their algorithmic systems and processes. We believe that Ofcom’s existing duty under the Communications Act already ensures that the regulator can cover these aspects in its media literacy activities. The duty requires Ofcom to build public awareness of the processes by which material on regulated services is selected or made available. This enables Ofcom to address the platform features specified in this amendment.

The Government’s amendments include extensive new objectives for Ofcom, which apply to harmful ways in which a service is used as well as harmful content. We believe it important not to add further to this duty when the outcomes can already be achieved through the existing duty. We do not wish to limit, by implication, Ofcom’s media literacy duties in relation to other, non-regulated services.

We also judge that the noble Lord’s amendment carries a risk of confusing the remits of Ofcom and the Information Commissioner’s Office. UK data protection law already confers a right for people to be informed about how their personal data are being used, making this aspect of the amendment superfluous.

Online Safety Bill

Debate between Lord McNally and Lord Parkinson of Whitley Bay
Lord Parkinson of Whitley Bay Portrait Lord Parkinson of Whitley Bay (Con)
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

Our right honourable friend’s content was reuploaded. This makes the point that the problem at the moment is the opacity of these terms and conditions; what platforms say they do and what they do does not always align. The Bill makes sure that users can hold them to account for the terms of service that they publish, so that people can know what to expect on platforms and have some form of redress when their experience does not match their expectations.

I was coming on to say a bit more about that after making some points about foreign jurisdictions and my noble friend’s Amendment 155. As I say, parts or versions of the service that are used in foreign jurisdictions but not in the UK are not covered by the duties in Clause 65. As such, the Bill does not require a provider to have systems and processes designed to enforce any terms of service not applicable in the UK.

In addition, the duties do not give powers to Ofcom to enforce a provider’s terms of service directly. Ofcom’s role will be focused on ensuring that platforms have systems and processes in place to enforce their own terms of service consistently rather than assessing individual pieces of content.

Requiring providers to set terms of service for specific types of content suggests that the Government view that type of content as harmful or risky. That would encourage providers to prohibit such content, which of course would have a negative impact on freedom of expression, which I am sure is not what my noble friend wants to see. Freedom of expression is essential to a democratic society. Throughout the passage of the Bill, the Government have always committed to ensuring that people can speak freely online. We are not in the business of indirectly telling companies what legal content they can and cannot allow online. Instead, the approach that we have taken will ensure that platforms are transparent and accountable to their users about what they will and will not allow on their services.

Clause 65 recognises that companies, as private entities, have the right to remove content that is legal from their services if they choose to do so. To prevent them doing so, by requiring them to balance this against other priorities, would have perverse consequences for their freedom of action and expression. It is right that people should know what to expect on platforms and that they are able to hold platforms to account when that does not happen. On that basis, I invite the noble Lords who have amendments in this group not to press them.

Lord McNally Portrait Lord McNally (LD)
- View Speech - Hansard - -

My Lords, in his opening remarks, the Minister referred to the fact that this debate began last Tuesday. Well, it did, in that I made a 10-minute opening speech and the noble Baroness, Lady Stowell, rather elegantly hopped out of this group of amendments; perhaps she saw what was coming.

How that made me feel is perhaps best summed up by what the noble Earl, Lord Howe, said earlier when he was justifying the business for tomorrow. He said that adjournments were never satisfactory. In that spirit, I wrote to the Leader of the House, expressing the grumbles I made in my opening remarks. He has written back in a very constructive and thoughtful way. I will not delay the Committee any longer, other than to say that I hope the Leader of the House would agree to make his reply available for other Members to read. It says some interesting things about how we manage business. It sounds like a small matter but if what happened on Tuesday had happened in other circumstances in the other place, business would probably have been delayed for at least an hour while the usual suspects picked holes in it. If the usual channels would look at this, we could avoid some car crashes in future.

I am pleased that this group of amendments has elicited such an interesting debate, with fire coming from all sides. In introducing the debate, I said that probably the only real advice I could give the Committee came from my experience of being on the pre-legislative scrutiny committee in 2003. That showed just how little we were prepared for the tsunami of new technology that was about to engulf us. My one pleasure was that we were part of forming Ofcom. I am pleased that the chairman of Ofcom, the noble Lord, Lord Grade, has assiduously sat through our debates. I suspect he is thinking that he had better hire some more lawyers.

We are trying to get this right. I have no doubt that all sides of the House want to get this legislation through in good shape and for it to play an important role. I am sure that the noble Lord, Lord Grade, never imagined that he would become a state regulator in the kind of ominous way in which the noble Baroness, Lady Fox, said it. Ofcom has done a good job and will do so in future.

There is a problem of getting definitions right. When I was at the Ministry of Justice, I once had to entertain a very distinguished American lawyer. As I usually did, I explained that I was not a lawyer. He looked at me and said, “Then I will speak very slowly”. There is a danger, particularly in this part of the Bill, of wandering into a kind of lawyer-fest. It is important that we are precise about what powers we are giving to whom. Just to chill the Minister’s soul, I remember being warned as well about Pepper v Hart. What he says at the Dispatch Box will be used to interpret what Parliament meant when it gave this or that power.

The debate we have had thus far has been fully justified in sending a few warning signals to the Minister that it is perhaps not quite right yet. It needs further work. There is a lot of good will on all sides of the House to get it right. For the moment, I beg leave to withdraw my amendment.

BBC: Appointment and Resignation of Chair

Debate between Lord McNally and Lord Parkinson of Whitley Bay
Tuesday 2nd May 2023

(1 year, 1 month ago)

Lords Chamber
Read Full debate Read Hansard Text Read Debate Ministerial Extracts
Lord Parkinson of Whitley Bay Portrait Lord Parkinson of Whitley Bay (Con)
- View Speech - Hansard - - - Excerpts

Ministerial responsibility is a core principle of the public appointments system. It is important that the process is run and is seen to be run in accordance with that code, and that people declare the things they are required to declare, so that people know. However, there are other independent panel members who are appointed to appointment panels to make sure that there is independence in the system. These are decisions on which Ministers are entitled to take a view, in line with the Government’s code.

Lord McNally Portrait Lord McNally (LD)
- View Speech - Hansard - -

My Lords, nothing the Minister has said so far can give us any confidence that the process is not going to still be influenced by No. 10 Downing Street. Therefore, is it not absolutely imperative that a system of selection be produced that makes it clear that whoever the incumbent is in No. 10, they will not have undue or improper influence on this appointment? I say this as someone who was once head of the political office in No. 10, so I know how that, under successive Governments, there is a desire to interfere. The Government have an opportunity now to create a really transparent, open system, but they have to have the will to do it as well.

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

The process for appointing the chair of the BBC is set out in the BBC’s royal charter. It requires an appointment to be made by Order in Council following a fair and open competition. By convention, the Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport recommends the appointment to the Lord President of the Council, and the Prime Minister recommends the appointment to His Majesty the King. It is important that the process be followed and that all public appointments be set out and conducted in accordance with the Government’s code.

BBC: Government Role in Impartiality

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

(1 year, 3 months ago)

Lords Chamber
Read Full debate Read Hansard Text
Lord Parkinson of Whitley Bay Portrait Lord Parkinson of Whitley Bay (Con)
- View Speech - Hansard - - - Excerpts

My Lords, the BBC’s charter makes it clear that it is the director-general, as editor-in-chief of the corporation, who has final responsibility for individual decisions on the BBC’s editorial matters, not the chairman of the board or other board members; that is what has been discussed quite widely in the past few days. The director-general of the BBC has made this clear, saying on Monday that he is

“absolutely not affected by pressure from one party or the other.”

The corporation is upholding its impartiality, as it absolutely should. The Commissioner for Public Appointments, as he is entitled to do, announced a review of the appointment process for the chairman of the BBC; we await the outcome of that review.

Lord McNally Portrait Lord McNally (LD)
- Hansard - -

What courtesy from the Conservative Benches—there is hope for them yet. It is our turn; that is why I am standing.

My Lords, the Minister of State, Julia Lopez, made my heart leap yesterday when she told the Commons:

“The BBC is a world-class broadcaster, a creative engine and a cultural institution producing some of the best television and radio in the world.”—[Official Report, Commons, 14/3/23; col. 714.]


She slightly rolled back on that later when addressing some of her Neanderthals by reassuring them that the mid-term review in 2024 would deal with some of their concerns. I wonder: will that mid-term review be just a one-way street of more squeezes on the BBC or will other things be considered, such as the decision to do away with the UK BBC News service? Will it consider the long-term impact of the campaigns run by the Murdoch press, Associated Newspapers and Express Newspapers, all tax-exile owned and all with a massive self-interest in diminishing and attacking the BBC? Will the mid-term review be a genuine two-way street, bringing things back as well as getting rid of them?

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

The terms of reference for the mid-term review were published in May last year, so the noble Lord can consult them. As set out in the charter, the review will consider the governance and regulation of the corporation. As agreed with the BBC, Ofcom and the devolved Administrations, it will consider how the governance and regulation of the BBC delivers the requirement on impartiality in the charter. I hope also to make the noble Lord’s heart glow by associating myself with my honourable friend’s comments.

Online Safety Bill

Debate between Lord McNally and Lord Parkinson of Whitley Bay
Monday 7th November 2022

(1 year, 7 months ago)

Lords Chamber
Read Full debate Read Hansard Text Read Debate Ministerial Extracts
Lord Parkinson of Whitley Bay Portrait Lord Parkinson of Whitley Bay (Con)
- View Speech - Hansard - - - Excerpts

I absolutely can. Ministers have had meetings with such groups and officials have continued to have those meetings, even with the change of Ministers in recent weeks. These have informed the scrutiny and improvement of the Bill to date.

Lord McNally Portrait Lord McNally (LD)
- View Speech - Hansard - -

My Lords, when I sat on the Puttnam commission 20 years ago, there was some excuse for not taking action for the real harms being caused on the internet. There is no such excuse now, as has been indicated. This House and the other place have been working on this for five years. The regulators are very well tooled up and ready to move. It is inexcusable, and there will be no excuse for leaving things undone due to backroom deals at the last minute. I do not doubt the Minister’s integrity on this but there must be no deals by No. 10 to weaken the Bill at this point; there is too much at stake. I do not think the Government will be forgiven if they renege on past promises to deliver a Bill worthy of the challenges that we are facing.

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

The noble Lord is quite right. Members of your Lordships’ House and another place will be vigilant. The Bill is being laid before Parliament so that noble Lords and Members in another place can see what is being proposed and inform the debate on it.

Repatriation of Cultural Objects

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

(1 year, 9 months ago)

Lords Chamber
Read Full debate Read Hansard Text Read Debate Ministerial Extracts
Lord Parkinson of Whitley Bay Portrait Lord Parkinson of Whitley Bay (Con)
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

My Lords, I am mindful that I am as old as the National Heritage Act so I am always happy to discuss, as I do, with people in the sector their views on it. I do not think there is a case for further changes to the law. There are already exceptions to do with the spoliation of items acquired during the Third Reich and to deal with human remains that are less than 1,000 years old. I think the position that we have is the right one at the moment but I am always happy to hear representations.

Lord McNally Portrait Lord McNally (LD)
- Hansard - -

My Lords, the Minister has twice cited those Acts in defence. Surely there is a case for looking at them and how restrictive they are in modern times. Of course, not all artefacts can be returned to their place of origin, but can your Lordships imagine the queues at the British Museum to look at a 3D replica of the Parthenon marbles, along with a history of where they came from and how they were looked after by the British Museum and then returned to their rightful place in Athens?

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

The British Museum has worked with the Acropolis Museum to allow for replicas to be made there and for the Acropolis Museum to show the sculptures. Of the half that remain in existence, half are in the Acropolis Museum, but there are also items in the Louvre, the Vatican and other museums around the world. The British Museum and many other museums work in partnership with museums around the world to lend items in order to extend our knowledge about them, and that is the purpose of our great museums.

Broadcasting Sector White Paper

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

(1 year, 11 months ago)

Lords Chamber
Read Full debate Read Hansard Text Read Debate Ministerial Extracts
Lord Parkinson of Whitley Bay Portrait Lord Parkinson of Whitley Bay (Con)
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

These details and more will be set out in the media Bill, which I look forward to debating with noble Lords. Giving Channel 4 the freedom to diversify its revenue streams as well as to address issues such as the intellectual property of the content it provides are important in making sure that it can continue to compete in the years to come.

Lord McNally Portrait Lord McNally (LD)
- Hansard - -

My Lords, very few people agree with the Minister’s analysis or the solutions he has put forward for either Channel 4 or the BBC. I put it to him again that it would be far better to withdraw this rather ill thought-out White Paper and allow the new Secretary of State coming into office in September to look at these matters afresh. If he does not think that there will be a new Secretary of State, would he like to take a bet on it?

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

My Lords, it remains the policy of Her Majesty’s Government to take forward the work that went into the White Paper.

Suicide: Online Products

Debate between Lord McNally and Lord Parkinson of Whitley Bay
Monday 27th June 2022

(1 year, 12 months ago)

Lords Chamber
Read Full debate Read Hansard Text Read Debate Ministerial Extracts
Lord Parkinson of Whitley Bay Portrait Lord Parkinson of Whitley Bay (Con)
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

Yes, we have discussed this matter with our colleagues in the Department of Health and Social Care and continue to do so. I am grateful to my noble friend for raising this issue. It is important in the context of the forthcoming Bill, which she knows so well, and through our work on the online advertising programme that is designed to look at the full range of harms that exist in online advertising. The Online Safety Bill will empower users to know what a company’s policies are and how to assert their rights to make sure they can be safe online.

Lord McNally Portrait Lord McNally (LD)
- Hansard - -

My Lords, there is a general welcome for the structure that has been set up by Ofcom and the CMA’s Digital Markets Unit to cover the area raised by the Question from the noble Baroness, Lady Morgan. A lot will depend on the remit of the regulators. In a recent Ofcom consultation, there was a push-back by the industry, with regulators having a responsibility not for citizens’ interests but for consumers’ interests. In the words of the great political philosopher Mandy Rice-Davies, they would, wouldn’t they? Will the Government resist this push-back?

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

The CMA, the FCA, the ICO and Ofcom all play a critical role through the Digital Regulation Co-operation Forum, which has an important role to play in delivering the regulatory landscape that protects users from harm. We will continue to work with that forum to explore the role that it and the regulators can have. Of course, these days almost all citizens are consumers online, but the noble Lord makes an important point. We want to make sure that everybody who uses the internet is safe.

Media Literacy

Debate between Lord McNally and Lord Parkinson of Whitley Bay
Monday 20th June 2022

(2 years ago)

Lords Chamber
Read Full debate Read Hansard Text Read Debate Ministerial Extracts
Lord Parkinson of Whitley Bay Portrait Lord Parkinson of Whitley Bay (Con)
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

My Lords, the strongest protections in the Online Safety Bill are for children. We are making sure that, through that Bill, we are protecting young people from harmful or inappropriate content such as grooming, bullying, pornography and the promotion of self-harm and eating disorders. There are many provisions in the Bill looking at these.

Lord McNally Portrait Lord McNally (LD)
- Hansard - -

My Lords—

Lord McNally Portrait Lord McNally (LD)
- Hansard - -

No, they have had about three goes.

I was a member of the Puttnam committee that gave pre-legislative scrutiny to the 2003 Act. The truth is that Ofcom put on the back burner its responsibilities in this area until it came under pressure by the fact that the new Online Safety Bill was going to increase its responsibilities in this area. I think the Minister’s answers so far have been very complacent given that, since 2003, we have become much more aware of the abuses and dangers inherent in this technology. We must give Ofcom more specific legislative powers in the coming Bill.

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

My Lords, I have pointed to some of the provisions in the Online Safety Bill which will strengthen Ofcom’s powers in this area. The Government are taking action as well. Our media literacy programme is supported by £2.5 million of funding in this financial year alone, so the Government are also acting to make sure that we are strengthening civil society groups and others who have a role to play in making sure that people are kept safe and well informed online.

Gambling Industry: Gambling Reforms

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

(2 years, 1 month ago)

Lords Chamber
Read Full debate Read Hansard Text Read Debate Ministerial Extracts
Lord Parkinson of Whitley Bay Portrait Lord Parkinson of Whitley Bay (Con)
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

Awaiting the outcome of our review, we have updated the gambling advertising code to ban adverts with a strong appeal to children, such as those involving Premier League footballers and other sports stars. We are very alert to the impacts of advertising on different groups, and will not hesitate to take action to rule out harmful practices. By calling for evidence on advertising as part of the review, we can keep abreast of the problem and come forward with appropriate proposals where needed.

Lord McNally Portrait Lord McNally (LD)
- Hansard - -

My Lords, the noble Lord, Lord Bassam of Brighton, drew attention to the fact that one of the Select Committee’s recommendations was a statutory levy on gambling. How much is that still on the Government’s agenda? When bringing any proposals forward on that, will the Minister remember that the smaller, harmless end of gambling such as seaside entertainments would be hit by a punitive levy? Such a levy should be polluter pays and not on the smaller, more harmless end of gambling. I say this as Lord McNally of Blackpool.

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

And I reply as Lord Parkinson of Whitley Bay. I am very alert to the important role played by slot machines at the seaside. We are looking at this area. We have been clear for a number of years that, if the existing system of taxation and voluntary contributions does not deliver what is needed, we would look at a number of options for reform, including a statutory levy. We will set out our conclusions in the White Paper.

Channel 4 Privatisation

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

(2 years, 2 months ago)

Lords Chamber
Read Full debate Read Hansard Text Read Debate Ministerial Extracts
Lord McNally Portrait Lord McNally (LD)
- Hansard - -

My Lords, on behalf of my noble friend Lady Bonham-Carter, I beg leave to ask the Question of which she gave private notice.

Lord Parkinson of Whitley Bay Portrait The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport (Lord Parkinson of Whitley Bay) (Con)
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

My Lords, following a consultation, the Culture Secretary has come to a decision that, although Channel 4 as a business is currently performing well, government ownership is holding it back in the face of a rapidly changing and competitive media landscape. The Secretary of State is now consulting her Cabinet colleagues on that decision. The Government will set out their future plans for Channel 4 in a White Paper shortly.

Lord McNally Portrait Lord McNally (LD)
- Hansard - -

My Lords, will the Government publish immediately the consultation, which was completed over six months ago and has not yet seen the light of day, on which the Secretary of State is allegedly making this decision? Is the Minister not ashamed that this extraordinarily well-run company is being dealt with in this way—a shabby decision, made in a hole-in-the-corner way—while the House of Commons is in recess? The chairman of the DCMS Committee, Julian Knight, has commented that this is “payback time” for the record of Channel 4 in holding the Government to account and helping our collective creative industries. Does the Minister not feel a little ashamed answering this Question today?

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

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

COVID-19 Vaccinations: International Athletes

Debate between Lord McNally and Lord Parkinson of Whitley Bay
Thursday 17th March 2022

(2 years, 3 months ago)

Lords Chamber
Read Full debate Read Hansard Text Read Debate Ministerial Extracts
Lord Parkinson of Whitley Bay Portrait Lord Parkinson of Whitley Bay (Con)
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

Yes, we are working with Games partners and public health partners and are learning lessons from recent events such as the Summer and Winter Olympics to make sure that the message gets across very loudly and clearly that we are strongly recommending that everyone be vaccinated.

Lord McNally Portrait Lord McNally (LD)
- Hansard - -

My Lords, given the attention that will be paid to the Commonwealth Games, is this not a wonderful opportunity for the Government to promote vaccination, particularly if a fourth round of vaccination is going to be inevitable, and to promote it by using some of the young people at the Games to get the message over, particularly to the young and ethnic minorities, that vaccination is important?

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

We know that vaccinations are very effective at protecting us from Covid-19 and are our strongest weapon in the fight against the pandemic. That is a message that is important for people still at home who have not yet been vaccinated, as well as for those visiting. The Games are an important opportunity to send that message.

Children: Online Protection

Debate between Lord McNally and Lord Parkinson of Whitley Bay
Thursday 10th February 2022

(2 years, 4 months ago)

Lords Chamber
Read Full debate Read Hansard Text Read Debate Ministerial Extracts
Lord Parkinson of Whitley Bay Portrait Lord Parkinson of Whitley Bay (Con)
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

I certainly agree that the Bill has already benefited from the work of the Joint Committee and all the representations that have been made about it by parliamentarians in both Houses. One of the pre-legislative recommendations was for post-legislative attention, and we will respond to that and all the other recommendations ahead of publishing the Bill.

Lord McNally Portrait Lord McNally (LD)
- Hansard - -

My Lords, I think the Minister should beware TS Eliot’s:

“Woe unto me when all men praise me!”


There is clearly a direction of travel which is welcomed in the House. Could he assure me that the British Board of Film Classification will be involved in ensuring that this safety legislation is watertight? It has long experience in age verification and other matters that would make it invaluable to whoever will take responsibility for these matters.

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

The noble Lord makes an important point. We have been speaking to the BBFC and others. The questions which we are addressing through the online safety Bill are not entirely new. The questions of access and how we can protect children, in particular, are ones that we have addressed in relation to other media. We are learning from those who have experience as we look to future regulation.

BBC Funding

Debate between Lord McNally and Lord Parkinson of Whitley Bay
Tuesday 25th January 2022

(2 years, 4 months ago)

Lords Chamber
Read Full debate Read Hansard Text Read Debate Ministerial Extracts
Lord Parkinson of Whitley Bay Portrait Lord Parkinson of Whitley Bay (Con)
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

My Lords, as we touched on in our debate on the BBC instigated by the noble Lord, Lord Bragg, before Christmas, it has been the hallmark of many Administrations to speak about the BBC with affection and sometimes criticism, as is the case with a much-cherished 100 year-old institution. The Statement that my right honourable friend the Secretary of State set out is the culmination of negotiations which began in November 2020, focused on helping licence fee payers in the short term and setting out a sustainable model for the BBC over the long term.

Lord McNally Portrait Lord McNally (LD)
- Hansard - -

My Lords, I cannot think of a time in the 100-year history of the BBC when an announcement of its future has been so politically motivated and accompanied by such ridiculous statements from the Minister responsible on Twitter. The one thing to grasp from the Statement was the offer of a proper, open, fair study of the problem of how we fund the BBC. If she wants to redeem her reputation, it would be by establishing such an independent, open commission to look at this problem and report, so that the next decision can be made in an informed way. Since we have just heard from one Bottomley, I shall quote another, the Father of the House, Peter Bottomley, my pair when I was in the other place. He said:

“The Conservative approach is to keep what is good, what works—and to improve whenever possible.”


What better terms of reference for such a future study of the funding of the BBC?

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

My Lords, Parliament is lucky to have a Bottomley in each House and I have the pleasure of calling them both friends. I will take the noble Lord’s suggestion about how we might have the debate that the Secretary of State has said we want to have about future funding back to the department. I welcome the fact that he is beginning to engage with it and look forward to having that debate with noble Lords across the House.

Covid-19: Entertainment and Arts Venues

Debate between Lord McNally and Lord Parkinson of Whitley Bay
Tuesday 14th December 2021

(2 years, 6 months ago)

Lords Chamber
Read Full debate Read Hansard Text Read Debate Ministerial Extracts
Lord Parkinson of Whitley Bay Portrait Lord Parkinson of Whitley Bay (Con)
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

I will discuss that matter with my honourable friend the Sports Minister. Of course, the Culture Recovery Fund has been helping organisations right across the wide range of things that people enjoy.

Lord McNally Portrait Lord McNally (LD)
- Hansard - -

My Lords, yesterday’s newspapers reported on the new musical “Cabaret”. These five-star reviews remind us what a magnificent magnet our London theatres in particular are for inward investment and tourism. However, the Society of London Theatre is warning us that these new circumstances—and they are new; the Prime Minister had to have a special broadcast, and we have to have special legislation—mean that the theatres are now faced with entirely new threats, yet from the department it still sounds like it is business as usual, rather than action this day.

Football Clubs: Ownership Test

Debate between Lord McNally and Lord Parkinson of Whitley Bay
Monday 29th November 2021

(2 years, 6 months ago)

Lords Chamber
Read Full debate Read Hansard Text Read Debate Ministerial Extracts
Lord Parkinson of Whitley Bay Portrait Lord Parkinson of Whitley Bay (Con)
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

I do not know if the Premier League has answered that, but I will certainly take the point away and ask on behalf of the noble Lord. But, as I say, the takeover of Newcastle United has been a matter for it and the Premier League, which undertook its own due diligence as part of the owners and directors test.

Lord McNally Portrait Lord McNally (LD)
- Hansard - -

My Lords, I do not think anybody doubts Tracey Crouch’s commitment to reform, but as the noble Lord, Lord Faulkner, reminded us, the Mellor-Faulkner report 20 years ago was equally determined to clean up football and was defeated by vested interests within the game. Can the Minister assure us that there will be backbone in No.10 as well as with Tracey Crouch in seeing these reforms through?

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

Yes, and I would point to the Government’s manifesto, which committed to this fan-led review. Football is nothing without its fans. That is why we have taken action at every step to support them, both through the manifesto commitment but also during the pandemic by getting football back on television and using the events research programme to get fans back safely into stadia.

Ofcom: Appointment of Chair

Debate between Lord McNally and Lord Parkinson of Whitley Bay
Wednesday 24th November 2021

(2 years, 7 months ago)

Lords Chamber
Read Full debate Read Hansard Text Read Debate Ministerial Extracts
Lord Parkinson of Whitley Bay Portrait Lord Parkinson of Whitley Bay (Con)
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

Again, I cannot be drawn into speculation on who may or may not have applied, but the general thrust of my noble friend’s remarks makes an important point. Civil servants do a brilliant job in delivering the laws that we enact in this place and in another place, but it is important that there is oversight not just from Ministers but from a broad range of people with experience in those fields. We want a broad range to apply to be the chairman of this important regulator.

Lord McNally Portrait Lord McNally (LD)
- Hansard - -

My Lords, is the Minister aware that, according to the Daily Telegraph, the term popular in the 1980s that “Every Prime Minister needs a Willie” is back in fashion? That of course referred to the late and much lamented Viscount Whitelaw being available to Mrs Thatcher to curb her exuberances. Does he think that the present Prime Minister needs a Willie and, if he does, could he not look to the Privy Council Benches for an ideal candidate?

Channel 4: Consultation

Debate between Lord McNally and Lord Parkinson of Whitley Bay
Tuesday 16th November 2021

(2 years, 7 months ago)

Lords Chamber
Read Full debate Read Hansard Text Read Debate Ministerial Extracts
Lord McNally Portrait Lord McNally (LD)
- Hansard - -

My Lords, in the absence of my noble friend Lady Bonham-Carter, and at her request, I beg to move the Question standing in her name on the Order Paper.

Lord Parkinson of Whitley Bay Portrait The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport (Lord Parkinson of Whitley Bay) (Con)
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

My Lords, the consultation on the potential change in ownership of Channel 4 received around 60,000 responses. We are grateful for the public’s engagement on this matter and, indeed, for the response from the noble Baroness, Lady Bonham-Carter, and her Liberal Democrat colleagues. We are now working hard to analyse every response and to ensure that all evidence feeds into any final decision.

Lord McNally Portrait Lord McNally (LD)
- Hansard - -

My Lords, is there not a lot of evidence that the overwhelming response, particularly from those with individual or organisational experience of the collective creative industries, was to warn against the privatisation of Channel 4? Will the Minister publish the advice that the department has received and, once he has analysed and considered it, would it not be a good idea to drop this piece of ideological vandalism?

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

The noble Lord is rather getting ahead of the process. No decision has been taken yet and we are carefully processing all the responses received. The consultation ran from 6 July to 14 September; as I said, it received around 60,000 responses, including more than 100 from the industry, all of which will be carefully analysed before any decisions are made.

Ofcom: Appointment of Chair

Debate between Lord McNally and Lord Parkinson of Whitley Bay
Tuesday 26th October 2021

(2 years, 8 months ago)

Lords Chamber
Read Full debate Read Hansard Text Read Debate Ministerial Extracts
Lord McNally Portrait Lord McNally (LD)
- Hansard - -

It is McNally—the noble Lord and I have known each other for only 30 years. It has already been pointed out that Ofcom will shortly be given unprecedented responsibilities for regulation, once the Bill on internet harms has passed this House. Noble Lords have already expressed widespread concern about how this appointment is being made. The Minister mentioned that an appointments panel is about to be appointed. Would it not restore public confidence if that panel were genuinely cross-party and independent in its judgments?

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

My Lords, the appointments panel will of course be governed by the public appointments rules. The job description and the names of those on the assessment panel will be available on the public appointments website when the campaign relaunches. The noble Lord is right also to point to the importance of the ongoing preparatory work for Ofcom’s role in online safety.

Online Harms Consultation

Debate between Lord McNally and Lord Parkinson of Whitley Bay
Wednesday 16th December 2020

(3 years, 6 months ago)

Lords Chamber
Read Full debate Read Hansard Text Read Debate Ministerial Extracts
Lord McNally Portrait Lord McNally (LD) [V]
- Hansard - -

[Inaudible.]

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

My Lords, the noble Lord needs to unmute himself. I am afraid that we still cannot hear him, so perhaps we should move on to my noble friend Lord Vaizey and see whether we can return to the noble Lord, Lord McNally, later.