Mr John Whittingdale (Maldon) (Con): What steps he plans to take to reform the law on copyright; and if he will make a statement.

The Secretary of State for Business, Innovation and Skills (Vince Cable): I am taking a number of steps to reform copyright law, in response to the Hargreaves review. Today, I am publishing the Government’s decision on changes to copyright exceptions, which I believe will achieve the right balance between creators, rights holders and users. The document, “Modernising Copyright: A modern, robust and flexible framework”, has been placed in the Library.

Mr Whittingdale: Does the Secretary of State agree that intellectual property rights and copyright underpin the success of our creative industries, which are so important to the economy? Is he concerned that many in those industries feel that the Government, on the back of the Hargreaves report, will dilute their intellectual property rights, not least in the area of exceptions to copyright law?

Vince Cable: The hon. Gentleman is right that the creative industries sector, which is crucial to the economy, depends heavily on intellectual property rights. However, we are dealing with a body of law that is extremely old—I believe that it goes back to Queen Anne. It certainly needs modification in the digital age. He is right that we need to move extremely carefully. That is why, over the last few weeks, we have been in discussions on some of the sensitive issues in relation to copying music and photography. When he studies the report in the Library, he will see that we have got the balance right between rights holders and liberalisation.

Mr John Whittingdale (Maldon) (Con): My right hon. Friend will be aware that my Committee—the Culture, Media and Sport Committee—has perhaps tested the boundaries of Select Committee powers more than most. The situation seems unsatisfactory in two areas. First, when we served warrants on Rupert and James Murdoch and Rebekah Brooks to appear before the Committee, it was not at all clear what the consequences would be had they failed to respond to that summons. Secondly, when we reported to this House that we believed we had been lied to by people who had given evidence to the Committee, it was, and remains, extremely unclear what the consequences of that are.

Sir Alan Beith: That is certainly true and I think it is one of the issues that will have to be examined by the Joint Committee, which is about to embark on this work. The problems are difficult to solve and affect only a few inquiries. They certainly affected the work of my hon. Friend’s Committee, which was notably successful in getting some potentially unwilling witnesses to appear before it. I congratulate him on what the Committee achieved.

It should be stressed that, for the vast majority of the time, Committees deal with willing witnesses who are very happy to come and be examined by us, even if, sometimes, they are critically examined. Most of the time, we are gaining information from willing witnesses. I will come in a moment to what happens when we deal with Government. So far as all other bodies and persons are concerned, the instances in which a draconian power might be required are very few. My hon. Friend is right that such powers as the House has in this area are not very easy to use, and we will have to further consider that issue.

Mr Whittingdale: To ask the Secretary of State for Culture, Olympics, Media and Sport (1) if he will make it his policy to finance the installation costs for filters to allow reception of digital terrestrial television following the adoption of 4G mobile technology in (a) households with amplifiers fitted and (b) multiple dwelling units; [115386]

(2) what estimate he has made of the cost of installing filters to allow reception of digital terrestrial television (DTT) following the adoption of 4G mobile technology in (a) all DTT households, (b) DTT households with amplifiers fitted and (b) multiple dwelling units; [115387]

(3) if he will make it his policy to finance the cost of filters where necessary for second television sets to continue to receive digital terrestrial television following the adoption of 4G mobile technology. [115388]

Mr Vaizey [holding answer 5 July 2012]:As set out in the Government's announcement of 21 February, every home that needs one will be provided with a filter free of charge.

Owners of properties with communal distribution systems will be provided with the filter appropriate to such equipment, free of charge. Ofcom estimate that approximately 20,000 multi dwelling buildings could be affected. Ofcom estimate that the typical cost for a fitting a filter for a communal aerial installation would be around £220, although it could be significantly lower, and that there are an average of 16 dwellings served by each system. For multi-dwelling units similar to a single household property the costs would be similar to those for single occupancy buildings. It is normally the responsibility of each landlord to maintain any TV signal distribution system in the property, and this should extend to the fitting of any filter that is required. In general, we are not proposing to fund the fitting-of filters in these cases.

The one in four homes with residents deemed to be “vulnerable”—that is they meet the eligibility criteria that have been used for the Switchover Help Scheme—will be entitled to. installation of the filter, if needed, free of charge, The cost of fitting these filters should be much less than for an antenna installation. Charges may vary from installer to installer but typically could be as low as £50 + VAT. All these costs will be met from the £180 million funding to be provided by the mobile network operators.

Support specifically for second and subsequent sets will not be provided. This is consistent with the approach we took in TV switchover where help was provided (to those eligible) for one set only. All homes living in the geographical area where they are predicted to experience interference to TV reception will be sent one filter with clear instructions for installation. This includes the 60% of homes whose primary viewing is on satellite or cable platforms who will be able to use the filter on a secondary set connected to an aerial.

The funding provision of £180 million is based on Ofcom estimates of the size of the expected problem and includes a significant margin. A breakdown of how Ofcom arrived at this figure is contained within their recent consultation on coexistence between new services in the 800 MHz band and digital terrestrial television.

Mr Whittingdale: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what assessment he has made of the likely effect on relations between Armenia and Azerbaijan of the release and repatriation of Ramil Safarov from prison in Hungary; and if he will make a statement. [120269]

Mr Lidington: We welcome the statements of the right hon. Baroness Ashton of Upholland and Commissioner Fule, and the Organisation for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE) Minsk Group Co-Chairs, with regard to the pardon of Ramil Safarov, following his return from Hungary, and share their concern about the impact this may have on prospects for stability and peace in the region. We regret any action that is contrary to ongoing efforts to reduce regional tensions and promote reconciliation.

Moving forward, it is important that both sides exercise restraint—in actions and public statements—to prevent any escalation of the situation. Together with our EU and OSCE partners, we will continue to follow the situation closely and we stand together with the international community in supporting the OSCE Minsk Group Co-Chairs in their efforts to reduce tension and find a negotiated way forward to resolve the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict.

Mr John Whittingdale (Maldon) (Con): I echo what has been said by my hon. Friend the Member for Reading East (Mr Wilson) and my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State. The revelations of recent weeks raise serious questions, not just about the culture that existed in the BBC some years ago—and in other organisations—but about the way in which the BBC has handled the matter, and in particular the very damaging suggestion that the “Newsnight” investigation was suppressed. The director-general of the BBC has offered to appear before the Culture, Media and Sport Committee next week, and I am sure that my colleagues will wish to take up that offer.

Maria Miller: I thank my hon. Friend for what he has said. I look forward to his Committee’s input, and the role that it will play in ensuring that these matters are handled transparently.

Mr John Whittingdale (Maldon) (Con): We do not have a lot of time, and I do not want to detain the House unduly. However, although it is recognised that this matter forms only a small part of the Bill, the importance of the creative industries to our national economy, and the contribution that they are making to growth, is so essential that we need to look very carefully at anything that affects the livelihoods of those working there—and the creative industries rest on the protection of intellectual property rights.

On Second Reading, I suggested to the Secretary of State that clause 57—then clause 56—could be used to make substantial changes to copyright law through statutory instruments. I am grateful to him for meeting representatives of a wide range of creative industries to discuss those concerns. That has led, to some extent, to the amendment that the Government have tabled. As the Minister said, several representatives of the creative industries, such as UK Music, the British Copyright Council, the Publishers Association and the Premier League have said that they are now satisfied.

However, as the hon. Member for Hartlepool (Mr Wright) said, that is not a unanimous view across the industry. The Minister has assured us that this is about enforcing penalties but, despite the Government’s amendment, the clause does not mention penalties. I am therefore still not clear as to why the Government did not accept the suggestion that they make it absolutely explicit in the Bill that it is all about penalties. Instead, it talks about exceptions, and it still allows changes to be made to copyright law by statutory instrument. Following the Hargreaves report, there is still great suspicion on the part of many of those in the creative industries that there is an intention to try to dilute intellectual property rights. They fear that the clause could be used—perhaps not by this Government but by a future Government—to bring forward changes to copyright law.

Those fears have been expressed, as the hon. Member for Hartlepool said, by a wide range of organisations, including Associated Press, ITN, Getty Images, the Press Association, British Pathé, Agence France Presse and Deutsche Presse-Agentur. I will quote one sentence from the letter they have sent that sums up the problem that the Government face:

“It therefore remains our concern that…the true purpose of Clause 57…as drafted”

is that

“it will be used as a vehicle to push through a number of changes to copyright exceptions recommended by the Hargreaves Review, which we discussed with you at our meeting because of the detrimental impact to business and the creative industries as well as…ultimately…to the UK’s future economic growth.”

I welcome the Minister’s assurance that that is not the Government’s intention, but it must be of concern that a number of organisations that are important to this country retain that suspicion. Anything that the Government can say or do now to allay that suspicion and make it clear that they do not intend to implement the Hargreaves recommendations in a bundle, via a statutory instrument, would be extremely welcome and would reinforce the point that the provision is not about that, but about criminal penalties.

Mr John Whittingdale (Maldon) (Con):

It is a pleasure to serve under your chairmanship, Mr Hollobone. I am grateful for the opportunity to debate an issue that has so far received little attention, but one that will affect large numbers of people in this country quite soon. It is appropriate that we should be debating it today. This is the day on which 4G services have become widely available in a number of cities as a result of Everything Everywhere making use of the 1,800 MHz spectrum.

Understandably, the competitors to Everything Everywhere have been concerned that it should be given a lead and so have been pressing to be able to go ahead with the provision of their own 4G services, and to do that they require access to the 800 MHz band. The Culture, Media and Sport Committee, which I am proud to chair, also shared the view that we needed to get on with the allocation of spectrum for 4G, because 4G carries real benefit to the economy, and we did not wish to get left behind.

I am pleased that Ofcom is now pressing ahead with the auction. However, the use of 800 MHz for mobile telephony will have consequences. It will result in interference with the provision of services currently using that band, particularly digital terrestrial television.

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Mr John Whittingdale (Maldon) (Con): Does my right hon. Friend agree that there is now almost universal agreement that we must have a strong new regulator, that it must be seen to be independent and that it must be established as quickly as possible? I strongly welcome his statement, however, that the question of whether the regulator should have statutory underpinning is something that Parliament needs to consider carefully, perhaps through a regular assessment of its effectiveness by the Culture, Media and Sport Committee, and that we should proceed to legislate only if it becomes absolutely clear that it will not function properly without it.

The Prime Minister: My hon. Friend makes an important point. He has probably spent more time looking at this issue than almost any other Member of the House of Commons. As he said, what matters is the enormous consensus about what independent regulation should consist of, including the powers that are necessary. We all know we need million-pound fines, proper investigations, editors held to account and prominent apologies. That is what victims deserve and what we must put in place, but he is right that we need to think carefully before we pass legislation in the House.

Over the past five years, the Culture, Media and Sport Select Committee, which I chair, has examined the issue of the standards and ethics of the press three times. Each time, what we have uncovered has caused us serious concern about the way in which the press operates in this country; we have revealed information that we all found truly shocking.

Mr John Whittingdale (Maldon) (Con):

It is important that we remember the people who have suffered at the hands of the press, including the McCann family, the Dowler family and Christopher Jefferies. However, it is also important to note that all in those cases suffered as a result of breaches of the law. Breaches of the Data Protection Act, the Regulation of Investigatory Powers Act 2000, the contempt of court laws and the libel laws were all involved in the suffering of those people.

That is one of the reasons that I agree strongly with the earlier remarks of the Chairman of the Home Affairs Committee, the right hon. Member for Leicester East (Keith Vaz). There are still big questions to be answered about how serial breaches of the law could take place in newsrooms and how the police appeared to do absolutely nothing about it, despite having the necessary evidence for a number of years. I very much hope that we will see the establishment of part 2 of the Leveson inquiry—whether it takes place under Lord Leveson or not is not the most important point—because we need answers to those questions once the criminal prosecutions have been exhausted.

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Mr John Whittingdale (Maldon) (Con): It is a pleasure to serve under your chairmanship, Mr Caton. I know that you would probably rather be in the body of the Chamber, since you, too, have many constituents affected by this very sad affair. I congratulate my hon. Friend the Member for Finchley and Golders Green (Mike Freer) on his success in securing the debate—a number of us entered the ballot, but he was the one lucky enough to be selected. We have an opportunity for the many Members who represent people who have suffered as a result of what has occurred to speak. As others have done, I would like to single out my hon. Friend the Member for South Basildon and East Thurrock (Stephen Metcalfe), who has led the campaign so well and ensured that it remains in the public eye. I must first apologise to my hon. Friends and other Members. I have to chair a Select Committee at 10.15 am, so I will be brief. I am grateful to be called early. I will not repeat the facts that were set out so ably by my hon. Friend the Member for Finchley and Golders Green and the hon. Member for Swansea West (Geraint Davies).

The saga is fairly clear, but it is always important to bear in mind the real distress caused to individuals. I shall mention two. Mr McDonald of Danbury in my constituency was employed by Ford for 33 years and then spent four years working for Visteon. He believed the assurances given to him about the pay, conditions and pension entitlements, which would mirror those that he had enjoyed during his time at Ford, and he therefore agreed for his pension to be transferred. Another of my constituents, Mr Sharpe of Heybridge, was employed by Ford for 27 years and by Visteon for three months. Both those individuals have seen their pension reduced by 50%. They believed that the Pension Protection Fund would offer some protection, which I hope the Minister will say a little about in his reply. The PPF suggested that it would guarantee that such people would receive 90% of their pensions, but that has proved not to be the case, as a result of how the rules work and the cap that has been applied.

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Mr John Whittingdale (Maldon) (Con): It is a pleasure to speak under your chairmanship, Mr Havard, and to have the opportunity to discuss the Select Committee’s report on football governance. This was a substantial inquiry by the Committee. It is worth remembering why the Committee decided that this was an important issue that deserved examination. There were two reasons, the first of which was the clear commitment given by both the parties that now form the coalition Government. It was clear that action needed to be taken, particularly to assist and encourage supporters to have greater involvement in the ownership and running of football clubs. That commitment appears plainly in the coalition agreement, although it was perhaps slightly less clear on precisely how it should be delivered. The Committee thought that it might be in a position to help the Government by taking evidence, examining that question and making recommendations.

However, this was not just about supporter involvement, although that is a very important element. It rapidly became apparent to us that there was quite significant concern among hon. Members on both sides of the House about the general state of our national game. A debate in this Chamber was extremely well attended by hon. Members, many of whom spoke up about the difficulties facing their local football clubs. There was widespread concern that something was wrong with the game. Perhaps that was best summed up by my hon. Friend the Minister, who famously described football as the “worst-governed sport” in England. I have to say that in the course of the Committee’s inquiry, we did not find much evidence to contradict what he said. However, we also found much to admire and praise about English football. There is no question but that it arouses huge passions up and down the country.

As I said, this was a substantial inquiry. We received more than 100 submissions of evidence. We held eight oral evidence sessions, to hear from every component part of the game. The Committee went on a number of visits. We went to Manchester City football club to see the huge investment that has taken place under its new owners. They have taken the club from the bottom levels to the top levels of the premier league. We went to Arsenal to see the Emirates stadium and to meet the management there. We held oral evidence sessions at Wembley stadium and Burnley football club. We also went to Germany. Looking at Germany’s model of licensing football clubs was a particularly influential part of our inquiry. It made quite an impact on the Committee.

I will not go through the whole report in detail, because many hon. Members are present and want to contribute and I hope that most of them have already read the report and are familiar with our findings.

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Mr John Whittingdale (Maldon) (Con): Thank you, Mr Speaker, for this opportunity to debate the funding of the Olympics and Paralympics, although I hope that you will be generous in allowing us to examine the wider benefits that will flow from the funding of the Olympics.

It is now nearly seven years since the day on which it was declared that London would be the host city for the 2012 Olympic and Paralympic games, and I suspect that almost everyone will remember where they were and their reaction when the news was announced. It was undoubtedly fantastic news for Britain, and it was rightly celebrated, but I think that quite a lot of us also thought, “Oh dear, what do we do next?” One of the things that the Culture, Media and Sport Select Committee, which I chair, decided to do was to hold regular sessions to monitor and scrutinise the work being done to prepare for the greatest sporting event that this country has held. Over the past seven years we have held annual sessions with the chairmen and chief executives of the Olympic Delivery Authority and the London Organising Committee of the Olympic Games and Paralympic Games and with the Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport—first the right hon. Member for Dulwich and West Norwood (Tessa Jowell) and now my right hon. Friend the Member for South West Surrey (Mr Hunt).

It is worth observing at this point that one of the striking things about the policy towards and preparation for the Olympics is that not only did London’s bid enjoy cross-party support from the start, but in all the time since it was announced as the host city, despite occasional, small differences across the Chamber, which were inevitable, in the main both parties have worked well together. Certainly, I believe that my party did what it could to support the right hon. Member for Dulwich and West Norwood when she was Secretary of State, and since then she has worked with us to ensure that the preparations go ahead smoothly and are not marred by partisanship or political point scoring. We have now—

I am reminded by a cough that that applies not just to the two main parties. I pay tribute to the support and work throughout the entire seven-year period of the right hon. Member for Bath (Mr Foster), who has been a stalwart on behalf of the Liberal Democrats.

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Mr John Whittingdale (Maldon) (Con): Will the Deputy Prime Minister join me and my right hon. Friend the Member for Chelmsford (Mr Burns) in congratulating the citizens of Chelmsford on their newly acquired status following Her Majesty’s announcement that Chelmsford is to be a city? Does he agree that it is entirely appropriate in Olympic year that Essex’s first city should be chosen when Essex is also looking forward to hosting the mountain biking competition during the Olympics?

The Deputy Prime Minister: I am not sure whether my hon. Friend the Member for Colchester (Sir Bob Russell) would entirely share that sentiment—we are all aware of the Colchester-Chelmsford rivalry. However, I can confirm the announcement today of the results of the civic honours competition in honour of Her Majesty the Queen’s diamond jubilee, namely that Chelmsford, Perth and St Asaph have been awarded the right to call themselves cities, while Armagh will from now on have a lord mayor. Although I know there will be disappointment in other communities that entered the contest, this is another announcement that will really lift the spirits of the nation in this, the year of the Queen’s diamond jubilee.

Mr John Whittingdale (Maldon) (Con): Will my right hon. Friend first confirm that, whatever his advisers may have said, the only advice that he took was from Ofcom, and that he followed it? Secondly, does he agree that usually in circumstances such as these the first thing the Opposition do is call for a judicial inquiry, and given that that is precisely what we have, is it not sensible to wait until it completes its work and not jump to conclusions?

Mr Hunt: My hon. Friend is exactly right, and given that the Leader of the Opposition has previously said that he thinks it is right that the Leveson inquiry should take its course—that the most important thing is that it gets to the bottom of what happened, of what Labour did, of what the Conservatives did, and we reach a judgment about that—it is curious that he is now trying to pre-empt its conclusions.

Mr John Whittingdale (Maldon) (Con): My hon. Friend referred to the Treasury’s own estimate that the measure may lead to a 30% reduction in demand. If that figure is correct, the measure will have a devastating effect on the parks in my constituency. However, I do not know whether my hon. Friend’s experience is the same as mine, but all my park owners are saying that they regard the 30% reduction as a gross underestimate. Osea leisure park, just one of those park owners, has told me that it believes that there could be a 60% reduction in demand for new homes.

Mr Stuart: My hon. Friend is absolutely right. Of course, many parks have made major investments, some of them—I hate to say it, as one hates to talk about vulnerable businesses—are highly geared, and if there is a chilling impact and eddies of demand, notwithstanding a little additional demand before 1 October, we could subsequently see more than a 30% reduction, which could result in the closure of manufacturers and park businesses that have invested for the longer term in this excellent British tourism industry.

Mr John Whittingdale (Maldon) (Con): Does my right hon. Friend accept that there is an urgent need to restore public confidence in the process that led to decisions in this matter and that to achieve that an inquiry needs to be held, in the open, in which witnesses give evidence in public, subject to cross-examination and under oath? Will he confirm that if at the end of that process there remain questions to be answered, he will refer the matter to the ministerial adviser—or it might be appropriate that it be looked into by a Select Committee of this House?

The Prime Minister: I can absolutely give my hon. Friend that assurance. I agree with him. Having seen some of the Leveson inquiry on television, I know that it is immensely powerful that people are questioned under oath, that all the documentation is carefully gone through and that questions on that documentation are properly followed up. As I say, that is far more robust than anything the independent adviser or the civil service could provide. As my hon. Friend says, I am not waiting for Leveson to complete his investigations. If at any stage information comes out that shows that anyone has breached the ministerial code, of course I will act. That is the right approach and I think people should respect the integrity of the fact-finding mission in which Leveson is engaged. It does not remove from me the necessity to police the ministerial code; that is my job and I will fulfil it properly.

Mr John Whittingdale (Maldon) (Con): I beg to move,

That this House notes the conclusions set out in chapter 8 of the Eleventh Report from the Culture, Media and Sport Committee, Session 2010-12, on News International and Phone-hacking, HC 903-I and orders that the matter be referred to the Committee on Standards and Privileges.

Let me begin, Mr Speaker, by thanking you for granting precedence to this motion, which I move on behalf of all the members of the Culture, Media and Sport Committee. I am aware that the motion is unusual, if not almost unprecedented in modern times, but as the Committee set out in the conclusions to our report, we believe that the integrity and effectiveness of Select Committees relies on the evidence that we are given being given truthfully and completely. We therefore regard the finding of the Committee that we were misled by specific individuals as an extremely serious matter, and we think it only right that it should be brought to the attention of the whole House of Commons and referred to the Committee on Standards and Privileges. I apologise for throwing this hot potato into the lap of the right hon. Member for Rother Valley (Mr Barron), but I think that it is important that his Committee consider this matter, first, to establish whether my Committee was indeed misled in the evidence that it was given; and secondly, to deal with the perhaps rather more difficult question of what Parliament should do in response.

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Mr John Whittingdale (Maldon) (Con): Does the Secretary of State accept that copyright is the legal expression of intellectual property rights, and is not a regulation? Is he aware of the widespread concern among the creative industries about clause 56, which will allow copyright to be amended by statutory instrument without full parliamentary debate? Will he assure the House that the Government will not change copyright in that way without proper parliamentary scrutiny?

Vince Cable: Yes, I can give assurances on that. We will deal with this subject later, but I totally accept the hon. Gentleman’s crucial point: intellectual property rights are a key part of a market economy. They are not “regulation” in the pejorative sense in which we normally refer to it—absolutely not; but we have to strike a balance between access to information and copyright protection. We think we are striking the right balance, and we are proceeding to implement the Hargreaves report, which has many of those ideas at its heart. On a personal level, I introduced the private Member’s Bill that strengthened criminal penalties for copyright theft, so I have a long-standing interest in upholding that legislation.

Let me deal with the first issue I mentioned—the green investment bank. The transition to a low-carbon economy is a very big challenge. Some analysis suggests that there will be demand for more than £200 billion of investment in the next decade to develop the innovative technologies and products that will underpin it. The challenge is all the greater, given the novelty of these markets and the long-term nature of returns on green infrastructure investment, which may deter private sector investors. There is a market failure here that the green investment bank will address. The bank will break new ground in the financing of projects, while demonstrating to the market that such investments can deliver commercial returns.

Mr John Whittingdale (Maldon) (Con): Can the Secretary of State confirm that the Saudi business man almost certainly exists? The Rachel Ehrenfeld case was heard in this country when there was no connection other than the 23 copies of her book that were sold, yet it resulted in the passage of the Libel Terrorism Protection Act in New York. It is a mark of shame against this country that New York state thought it necessary to pass an Act specifically aimed against this country.

Mr Clarke: I made my remark about the case being hypothetical to avoid being drawn into arguments about that case, which is rather familiar to people who know this subject. There are arguments about how far the plaintiff had connections with this country and a reputation here, but as it happens I was producing the example of a Saudi and an American purely hypothetically and I do not think I should get drawn into the merits of a past case. My hon. Friend, who is an expert in this field, rapidly understood why those particular nationalities had leapt to my mind when I gave the example.

Alongside these adjustments in the law to help support freedom of expression, I want to ensure that effective remedies are available for those defamed. Often what most concerns claimants is not financial compensation, but meaningful public clarification that a story was wrong. We have therefore included provisions in clause 12 extending existing powers to enable the court to order publication of a summary of its judgment. Parties will be encouraged to reach agreement, where possible, on the contents of the summary and issues such as where, when and how it is to be published. However, in the absence of agreement, the court will be empowered to settle the wording of the summary and give directions on those other matters.

In addition to protecting freedom of expression and reputation, the Bill seeks to modernise the law. Our biggest difficulty has been in relation to the web, the internet and so on. Currently, website operators are in principle liable as publishers for everything that appears on their site, even though the content is often determined by their users, but most operators are not in a position to know whether the material posted by their users is defamatory or not, and very often, faced with a complaint, they will immediately remove material. The Government want a libel regime for the internet that makes it possible for people to protect their reputations effectively, but which ensures that information online cannot be easily censored by casual threats of litigation against website operators.

Mr John Whittingdale (Maldon) (Con): It is not that long since I spoke in the Chamber on the subject of individuals misleading Parliament, so I am in no doubt about the seriousness of that charge. I do not question the right of the Opposition to table the motion, but I have listened carefully to the Secretary of State and commend him for the way in which he has responded to each individual accusation and for his conduct over the past few months, which cannot have been easy.

Some have suggested that the Secretary of State should not have had a view about the bid by News Corp to acquire all of BSkyB, but one of his first responsibilities is to be the sponsoring Minister for the media industry of this country. It would have been utterly extraordinary if he did not have a view. BSkyB is one of the most important media companies in the country and plays a vital part in the future of the media: of course he would have a view about it.

Not only was the Secretary of State entitled to have a view, but I believe he held the correct view. Had the bid gone through, it would have had good implications for the survival of newspapers in this country. He was not responsible for that matter at the time; it was a quasi-judicial matter for the Secretary of State for Business, Innovation and Skills.

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Mr John Whittingdale (Maldon) (Con): One of the alternative ways of making faster broadband available is through the roll-out of 4G mobile services, but has the Secretary of State seen the analysis by Freeview that suggests that over 2 million homes may have their digital television service interfered with as a result, and that the funds secured by the Government to counter that interference may not be anything like sufficient? Does he agree with that analysis, and what is he proposing to do about it?

Mr Hunt: I absolutely agree that the roll-out of 4G is another opportunity. One of the options proposed by Ofcom would mean 98% coverage of 4G, which would be extremely important in many of the rural areas about which hon. Friends are concerned. We have an ongoing consultation about the mitigation plans for people whose signals will be affected by these auctions. Ofcom has not told me that it has any concerns about the plans that are in place, but I will listen to it very carefully in that regard.

Mr Whittingdale: To ask the hon. Member for Caithness, Sutherland and Easter Ross, representing the House of Commons Commission, what further steps he plans to take to extend wi-fi access throughout the parliamentary estate.

John Thurso: A business case to provide a comprehensive wi-fi service across the parliamentary estate was approved in December 2011. A full OJEU tender process was commenced in January. Subject to the successful outcome of the tender, the renewal and extension of wi-fi will begin towards the end of this financial year with plans to complete the implementation in April 2013.

Mr Whittingdale: To ask the Secretary of State for Culture, Olympics, Media and Sport (1) if he will make it his policy to finance the installation costs for filters to allow reception of digital terrestrial television following the adoption of 4G mobile technology in (a) households with amplifiers fitted and (b) multiple dwelling units; [115386]

(2) what estimate he has made of the cost of installing filters to allow reception of digital terrestrial television (DTT) following the adoption of 4G mobile technology in (a) all DTT households, (b) DTT households with amplifiers fitted and (b) multiple dwelling units; [115387]

(3) if he will make it his policy to finance the cost of filters where necessary for second television sets to continue to receive digital terrestrial television following the adoption of 4G mobile technology. [115388]

Mr Vaizey [holding answer 5 July 2012]:As set out in the Government's announcement of 21 February, every home that needs one will be provided with a filter free of charge.

Owners of properties with communal distribution systems will be provided with the filter appropriate to such equipment, free of charge. Ofcom estimate that approximately 20,000 multi dwelling buildings could be affected. Ofcom estimate that the typical cost for a fitting a filter for a communal aerial installation would be around £220, although it could be significantly lower, and that there are an average of 16 dwellings served by each system. For multi-dwelling units similar to a single household property the costs would be similar to those for single occupancy buildings. It is normally the responsibility of each landlord to maintain any TV signal distribution system in the property, and this should extend to the fitting of any filter that is required. In general, we are not proposing to fund the fitting-of filters in these cases.

The one in four homes with residents deemed to be “vulnerable”—that is they meet the eligibility criteria that have been used for the Switchover Help Scheme—will be entitled to. installation of the filter, if needed, free of charge, The cost of fitting these filters should be much less than for an antenna installation. Charges may vary from installer to installer but typically could be as low as £50 + VAT. All these costs will be met from the £180 million funding to be provided by the mobile network operators.

Support specifically for second and subsequent sets will not be provided. This is consistent with the approach we took in TV switchover where help was provided (to those eligible) for one set only. All homes living in the geographical area where they are predicted to experience interference to TV reception will be sent one filter with clear instructions for installation. This includes the 60% of homes whose primary viewing is on satellite or cable platforms who will be able to use the filter on a secondary set connected to an aerial.

The funding provision of £180 million is based on Ofcom estimates of the size of the expected problem and includes a significant margin. A breakdown of how Ofcom arrived at this figure is contained within their recent consultation on coexistence between new services in the 800 MHz band and digital terrestrial television.

Mr John Whittingdale (Maldon) (Con): May I congratulate my hon. Friend the Member for Suffolk Coastal (Dr Coffey) on securing the debate? She is a formidable ally on the Culture, Media and Sport Committee, and she is also a strong champion for her constituency. A lot of the issues that she has raised directly affect my constituents, but that is unsurprising since we share the same shoreline management plan.

I represent a rural area of Essex with a long coastline. It will come as a surprise to many people to hear that my area of Essex has one of the longest coastlines in the country. However, that will not come as a surprise to the Minister, who is an extremely distinguished former chairman of the Essex National Farmers Union, so I am pleased that he is responding to the debate. Many of my concerns relate to the protection of agricultural land, and he will understand why coastline management is such an important issue, particularly in my part of the world.

We in Essex are conscious of the fact that shoreline management is extremely important. Many people still remember 1953, when more than 100 people died in Essex as a result of the last major tidal surge and the collapse of sea defences. A map on the Environment Agency website, which is available to anyone who wishes to consult it, shows the extent of the floodplain in my area. It shows that 2,000 houses in Heybridge, in my constituency, would be under water following a one-in-200-year event. It also shows a large amount of agricultural land on the Dengie peninsula, which I represent, being lost to the sea, which is a real concern.

The Environment Agency rightly concentrates on protecting residential dwellings and human life, and that must be the priority. However, there is concern that agricultural land may not get the attention that it deserves. We realise, of course, that the country is under pressure. We have steadily rising sea levels on the east coast, a tilting land mass and the erosion of salt marshes, which constantly increases the pressure on our defences. We are also very much aware of economic considerations.

I do not therefore in any way dispute the necessity of drawing up a shoreline management plan to determine where we should concentrate resources and to work out a sensible strategy for each part of the coastline. Indeed, I was at the meeting at which the plan was first unveiled, and it came as a relief to some extent that it was less drastic-certainly in the first epoch-than we had feared. Nevertheless, in areas where there are proposals to realign the coastline and to give up agricultural land, farmers find it difficult to come to terms with what is happening, particularly at a time when we are increasingly worried about our food security and the need to maintain and increase agricultural production.

What has caused greater concern, however-my hon. Friend rightly touched on this-is the feeling that the plans were drawn up without any proper consultation of affected landowners. There have been public meetings and opportunities for people to come along and look at the proposals, but there has been a lack of moves directly to involve the people who will be affected to give them an opportunity to make representations, to question some of the criteria that have been used or to appeal.

Indeed, there is still a debate about how the plans have been drawn up. There is no agreement, for instance, on matters such as the economic value of the land that would potentially be abandoned or the cost of repairing sea walls. The whole cost-benefit analysis is slightly shrouded in mystery. There have been questions, for instance, over whether sufficient regard has been given to mobile homes and caravan parks, which are obviously not permanent residential dwellings. Those are all issues on which more needs to be done.

I and other Members in Essex have been contacted by the Managing Coastal Change group in Essex and by Andrew St Joseph, who is a former constituent, although he is none the less still a good adviser on these issues, and I suspect that his name will be familiar to the Minister as well. They have raised concerns both about the fact that landowners have not really had a chance to discuss these issues and about the Environment Agency's assurances in the plan. For instance, the Environment Agency said that it had spoken to everyone who owns land in the areas where managed realignment is proposed, but Mr St Joseph points out that a number of landowners had told him that they had had no meaningful contact with the Environment Agency at all about that. When I went to the unveiling of the shoreline management plan, which was attended by landowners from my constituency and the rest of Essex, one of the farmers came up to me and said that on the wall he had seen for the first time that a large part of his farm had been designated for future realignment and loss to the sea. Clearly, that is a matter of concern. There needs to be greater dialogue between landowners and the Environment Agency.

There is an even greater concern about the lack of dialogue with Natural England, which my hon. Friend the Member for Suffolk Coastal also touched on. There is concern that it has a very powerful influence over the decisions being taken. My hon. Friend referred to some of the frustrations about the extent of protection for wildlife as opposed to human beings. There certainly appears to be greater protection for the habitat of a water vole than there does for that of a human being, which is difficult for people to understand. I am not one to say that the habitat of water voles is not important-it plainly is-but these things need to be kept in perspective. There is a general feeling that the habitats directive is driving this policy too much and that some decisions are being taken in large part to meet the requirements of the directive rather than as a result of proper consideration of the costs and benefits of maintaining sea defences.

Although I get some reassurance about the large amount of sea wall designated as "hold the line", the truth is that if the Environment Agency decides that money is not available to maintain defences, it can come back and say, "Even though it is 'hold the line' that does not necessarily mean that we're going to have the money to maintain it." There is a willingness on the part of landowners to take on that responsibility. In previous debates, I raised the difficulties facing landowners in obtaining the necessary consents to carry out minor maintenance work. Something has been done; the Environment Agency has produced a useful pack to give a simple guide to landowners about how to go about maintaining their defences, but it makes it clear there will be a need to get permission from Natural England in areas with sites of special scientific interest.

Mr St Joseph pointed out to me that a long time ago farmers were approached and asked whether they would accept SSSI designation on their sea walls, and they accepted it, thinking that it would have little impact or make little difference to the practicality of maintenance. Obviously, they were happy to do it. It was only later that they discovered that it made a huge difference and, as a result, it became much more difficult for them to obtain the necessary permissions to carry out repair work on their sea walls. The willingness is there but more still needs to be done to make it easier for landowners to take on the responsibility and carry out the work if the Environment Agency is unable or unwilling to do it.

I shall end by stressing a point that came out particularly in the opening speech of my hon. Friend the Member for Suffolk Coastal, which is the feeling that there has been a lack of dialogue. A group of farmers in my constituency approached me and said that they had repeatedly asked to discuss with Natural England how it could be made easier to reach agreement on what was acceptable and welcome work to maintain defences, and on how to obtain the necessary consents. As far as I am aware, that group has not yet had a response from Natural England. I have written to Natural England and I have not yet had a response. Much more needs to be done in that area to increase co-operation and understanding, because the absence of those things leads to resentment, making it much more difficult to achieve what we all want, which is protection wherever possible of land and human habitation within the necessary economic constraints that exist today.



Mr Whittingdale: To ask the Secretary of State for Justice what the total cost to the public purse was of the case brought against Ejup Ganic; and how much has been so spent on (a) counsel, (b) solicitors, including staff time, (c) all relevant court hearings, (d) the Director of Public Prosecutions and the Crown Prosecution Service,(e) Ejup Gain's costs awarded out of public funds and (f) any other relevant costs to be met from public funds. [30677]

Nick Herbert: With regard to the total costs to the public purse of the extradition request for Dr Ejup Ganic, I refer my hon. Friend to my previous reply of 8 November 2010, Official Report, column 118W.

The following information on costs is available.

The cost to the Home Office of counsel employed on the Ganic case was £1,597.24.

I understand from the Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) that the total cost of administration and in-house advocates relating to the case was £34,511. The cost to the CPS of counsel employed on the case was £76,400.

I understand from HM Courts Service that the cost of the hearings involving Dr Ganic at city of Westminster magistrates court is estimated at £7,630. This is based on the estimated national average daily marginal costs for a district judge sitting in the magistrates court. The cost of the hearings at the High Court are estimated at £2,340, again based on average costs.

Dr Ganic did not receive legal aid; a defence costs order has been made to reimburse his legal costs from central funds. However, records show that no money has been paid to date.


Mr Whittingdale: To ask the Secretary of State for Education what estimate his Department has made of the number of fully-qualified teachers who are unemployed. [29421]

Mr Hurd: I have been asked to reply.

The information requested falls within the responsibility of the UK Statistics Authority. I have asked the authority to reply.

Letter from Stephen Penneck, dated December 2010:

    As Director General for the Office for National Statistics, I have been asked to reply to your Parliamentary Question asking what estimate has been made of the number of fully-qualified teachers who are unemployed. 029421

    Estimates of unemployment are taken from the Labour Force Survey. For the three month period ending September 2010 it is estimated that 49,000 people who hold either a teaching qualification to degree level, a first degree that provides qualified teacher status or a post graduate certificate in education, are unemployed.

Mr Whittingdale: To ask the Secretary of State for Education what assessment his Department has made of shortages of qualified teachers in each region. [29422]

Tim Loughton: The numbers of qualified and unqualified(1) teachers, by region, are published in table 3 of the School Workforce statistical first release (SFR). Tables 7 and 9 of the SFR provide further information on the vacancy rates, for full-time and part-time teachers separately, in local authority maintained schools by region. The most recent publication, containing this information for January 2010, can be accessed via the following link:


Table 1 provides the proportion of the total regular teachers in each region who are qualified. The north-west of England has the highest proportion of qualified teachers, the north-west and Yorkshire also have high proportions for the nursery and primary and special, PRU and other non-school education sectors respectively.

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Mr John Whittingdale (Maldon) (Con): I very much welcome my right hon. Friend's comments earlier about the Localism Bill. Can he confirm that its provisions will apply to applications for onshore wind farms such as those on the Dengie peninsula in my constituency? One of them has already been described as harmful to the local environment, and it is deeply unpopular with the local community.

The Prime Minister: I can give my hon. Friend a positive answer. The Localism Bill addresses that issue. As well as doing that, it is important that where local communities are affected by things such as onshore wind, they should make sure that they benefit from those developments. The Localism Bill brings a whole new approach that will much better settle this difficult debate than what has been done until now.

Mr John Whittingdale (Maldon) (Con): I endorse the concerns expressed by the hon. Member for Rhondda (Chris Bryant). Does my right hon. Friend the Minister agree that we in this House have always recognised that, although freedom of the press is sometimes uncomfortable, it is absolutely vital to a free society? Does he also agree that the treatment of Luke Harding is a matter of some concern, but that it is of even greater concern that half a dozen or more journalists have been killed or have disappeared in Russia in the past few years? Will he make absolutely sure that those coming to this country from Russia are left in no doubt as to how seriously we regard that?

Mr Lidington: My hon. Friend makes good and sensible points. We consistently raise both individual cases and the broader issues to which he rightly ascribes importance with Russian visitors to the United Kingdom, but they are also raised by British Ministers and officials when visiting Russia, and we will continue that practice.

Mr John Whittingdale (Maldon) (Con): It is not often, I expect, that I shall sign a motion in the name of the Leader of the Opposition. On this particular occasion I thought it right to do so. I commend the Leader of the Opposition on his approach, which is that we must tackle these appalling matters on a cross-party basis. I have always tried to do that in the Culture, Media and Sport Committee, which I am proud to chair, and I think that we have succeeded. I will merely say that I am sorry that the Leader of the Opposition’s predecessor did not choose the same approach this afternoon.

I believe that the atmosphere at present has become so poisoned by the stream of appalling revelations that it would have been quite wrong for the News Corporation bid to acquire the whole of BSkyB to go ahead. We still do not know—we still have not even begun to know—the full extent of what has been going on in the newsroom at the News of the World, in the higher levels of News Corporation or, possibly, outside that, in other organisations, but clearly there were already question marks about the “fit and proper” test for News Corporation’s bid. The important thing is that we should obtain answers to questions very rapidly. There is an ongoing police inquiry, which needs to be concluded as fast as possible; there is the judicial inquiry that the Prime Minister has rightly set, which I fear will take much longer; and then there is my Select Committee, which has asked Rupert Murdoch, James Murdoch and Rebekah Brooks to appear before it next Tuesday. We have not yet received a response. The Select Committee will meet tomorrow morning, and if we have not received a reply by then, we might well wish to return to the House to ask it to use the powers available to it to ensure that witnesses attend.

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Mr John Whittingdale (Maldon) (Con): Is my right hon. and learned Friend aware that the Culture, Media and Sport Select Committee received considerable evidence that the massive increase in the cost of libel actions that can result from the use of conditional fee arrangements is having a seriously chilling effect on investigative journalism? Does he accept that the measures he has announced this afternoon are in some ways even more important for sustaining investigative journalism and scientific debate than the measures contained in his draft Defamation Bill?

Mr Clarke: I think that is right. This will have a big impact on defamation cases where people threaten the publisher of something they do not like with enormous costs if they want to defend the action. This is having, to use the jargon phrase, “a chilling effect” not only on scientific and academic work, but on proper investigative journalism. When we put the draft Defamation Bill together with what we are proposing to do in the light of Rupert Jackson’s proposals, the way in which we are setting up no win, no fee generally and the announcements I have made about the jurisdiction of the courts, I think we will make a significant impact on lowering the costs of all this litigation to the advantage of plaintiffs who have a legitimate grievance and of defendants. We are going to stop the whole thing being a high roller’s gamble, which is what it is at the moment, as to whether the other side dare face the risks of the huge costs being piled up the moment a claim is brought.

Mr Whittingdale: Does my hon. Friend recognise that the revelations that have streamed out over the past six months have probably led to a greater loss of confidence in the self-regulation of the press than there has been at any previous time? I strongly support self-regulation, but if the public are to regain confidence in that self-regulation, the PCC will have to be seen to have stronger powers. My Committee strongly recommended that it was not sufficient for the PCC simply to require a newspaper to publish an adjudication. In cases of serious breaches of the code, there should be some sanction available to the PCC to demonstrate that the breach was unacceptable and to ensure that newspapers take seriously the requirement to abide by the code.

Mr Vaizey: I have run out of time, but I would say in conclusion that the PCC and the press will have heard hon. Members’ remarks in the debate. The Chairman of the Culture, Media and Sport Committee will be aware that the PCC is conducting its own review following the phone hacking allegations. As well as being a criminal offence, phone hacking is of course a breach of the code. The PCC is reviewing the matter to see whether it can make its recommendations stronger, but it will have heard the important—

Mr John Whittingdale (Maldon) (Con): Although I welcome the moves to increase the NAO’s access to the accounts of the BBC, the Secretary of State will be aware that the Comptroller and Auditor General has written to him to say that he will still not have the ability to decide what to do and when to do it. Does he agree that that ability is essential if the NAO is to have the genuinely unfettered access that he has promised?

Mr Hunt: I agree that the NAO should have unfettered access to the BBC accounts. I take heart from the comments that the incoming chairman of the BBC Trust, Lord Patten, made to my hon. Friend’s Committee, when he said that he wanted the NAO to have full, unrestricted access and to be able to go where it wished to ensure and scrutinise value for money at the BBC.

Mr Whittingdale: I welcome the report from the committee of the Master of the Rolls, which contains a number of sensible recommendations, and also the Prime Minister’s decision to establish a Committee to examine all the issues surrounding the granting of injunctions and super-injunctions. Does my right hon. and learned Friend accept, however, that matters are developing very rapidly? Does he accept that the revelation on Friday of some of the details of the injunction granted to Sir Fred Goodwin raised important issues of public interest, and that that raises the question of why the injunction was granted in the first place? Does he agree that he would virtually have to live in an igloo not to know the identity of at least one premier league footballer who has obtained an injunction, and that the actions by thousands of people who posted details of it on Twitter are in danger of making the law look an ass?

In the report by the Master of the Rolls, doubt is cast once again on the right of the press to report the proceedings of Parliament. Does that not have worrying implications for the rights of Members of the House of Commons, and for parliamentary privilege?

More than a year ago, the Select Committee on Culture, Media and Sport called for the Parliamentary Papers Act 1840 to be replaced by a clear and comprehensive statute upholding the fundamental rights of the press to report what is said in this place. Will he ensure that that, too, is considered by the Prime Minister’s Committee as a matter of urgency?

The Attorney-General: Let me respond to my hon. Friend’s reference to individual cases by saying that he will not be surprised if I am not drawn into commenting on the matter. What I can say is that widespread public interest and, indeed, disquiet have been expressed about the events of the past few weeks and days, and that—as the report by the Master of the Rolls clearly showed—they raise the question of how a person’s privacy can be balanced against the requirement for the public to be properly informed, and also the question of how injunctions may be enforced. I would add, however, that the courts have power to punish those who breach injunctions, and those who decide flagrantly to do so should bear that in mind when they embark on such a course.

The question of parliamentary privilege is not a new issue. While it is fully recognised that we have complete privilege in this Chamber to say what we like—and the Lord Chief Justice reiterated that in the clearest and most unequivocal terms in his comments last Friday— the question of the extent to which communication between a constituent and a Member of Parliament is covered by parliamentary privilege remains uncertain. What is entirely clear is that—from the judiciary’s point of view as much as those of the Government and Parliament—that is an undesirable state of affairs, which is undoubtedly susceptible to both clarification and rectification if the will is there for that to be done.


John Whittingdale (Maldon) (Con): Does my hon. Friend agree that one of the key determinants of the success of the creative industries is the strong protection of intellectual property? Is he considering following the example of President Obama and appointing a champion for intellectual property, which would send that signal? Does he agree that what would send precisely the wrong signal is any suggestion from local authorities that the enforcement of actions against pirate or counterfeit goods by trading standards officers should not be seen as a priority?

Mr Vaizey: I met President Obama’s copyright tsar, Victoria Espinel, when she was in this country last week. We had a meeting with the IP crime group, which is very effectively taking forward the enforcement of measures to tackle IP crime. The Minister, Baroness Wilcox, is also an extremely effective champion of the IP industry.

Mr John Whittingdale (Maldon) (Con): May I congratulate the Secretary of State on the meticulous care that he has shown in his handling of this matter? Can he confirm that every single concern that has been raised by the regulatory authorities has been addressed? On the wider question of impartiality, does he agree that the value of Sky News is not because it makes money—it does not—but because of the benefit to the overall reputation of BSkyB that comes from the integrity, objectivity and the quality of its news gathering, and that it would therefore be madness for any new owner to seek to change that?

Mr Hunt: I completely agree with what my hon. Friend is saying. The regulatory authorities have both confirmed, both on 3 March and today, that they are satisfied that the undertakings I am putting before the House address the concerns that were raised about media plurality. I have taken that advice very seriously indeed.

My hon. Friend’s second point about Sky News is particularly important today because in the revised undertakings that we have published there are two things that particularly strengthen what the public value about Sky News. First, News Corp undertakes that it will not do anything to cause Sky News to contribute less to media plurality in this country if this deal goes through. Secondly, it agrees that it will continue to cross-promote Sky News on the Sky platform at the same level it currently does. In terms both of financial viability and of that all-important contribution to media plurality I am satisfied that if I proceed with the undertakings as published today, we will continue to have a free and plural media.

Mr John Whittingdale (Maldon) (Con): I rise to speak in the debate with considerable sadness. I am a passionate believer in the freedom of the press, but like other freedoms, that freedom must be exercised within the rule of law. Many of us here were appalled when we discovered, in the course of the expenses scandal, what a small number of Members of the House had done. They were rightly prosecuted and several have now gone to prison, but that scandal tainted all of us. The hon. Member for Rhondda (Chris Bryant) referred to the fact that journalists throughout the country are equally appalled at the revelations that have come out about the activities of some members of their profession, and they too feel that they have been tainted by them.

The latest revelations mark a low point in the saga of phone hacking, but I fear they do not mark the end point. There are likely to be further revelations still to come. The matter was first looked at by the Culture, Media and Sport Committee in early 2007, following the conviction of Clive Goodman and Glenn Mulcaire. At that time I asked the chairman of News International, Les Hinton:

“You carried out a full, rigorous internal inquiry, and you are absolutely convinced that Clive Goodman was the only person who knew what was going on?”

Mr Hinton replied:

“Yes, we have and believe he was the only person, but that investigation, under the new editor, continues.”

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Mr Whittingdale: To ask the Secretary of State for Culture, Olympics, Media and Sport what his policy is on the future administration of the Public Lending Right. [65210]

Mr Jeremy Hunt: The Government recognise the importance of the Public Lending Right (PLR) to authors. We have made assurances that PLR payments will still be administered by a body operating at arm's length from Government and with the same independence and impartiality currently awarded to the PLR Registrar. We are working to resolve as quickly as possible the issues associated with the transfer of the Public Lending Right's functions to another body.

Mr John Whittingdale (Maldon) (Con): I welcome the Prime Minister’s statement, and thank him for consulting me, and my two fellow Select Committee Chairmen, about the terms of reference last night. Although there is no doubt that we need a stronger system of regulation of the press in this country, will the Prime Minister bear in mind that although it was newspapers that were responsible for these wholly unacceptable and often illegal activities, it was also newspapers that exposed them? I hope he will agree that a free press is a fundamental cornerstone of a free society, and that we must do nothing to jeopardise that.

The Prime Minister: My hon. Friend speaks very good sense about this matter. Ultimately, we want not just a free press, but a free and vigorous press, which can make our lives miserable a lot of the time. That is absolutely vital. There will be those in the press who will be made nervous of a judge-led inquiry covering all the aspects of this matter, and I stress the importance of the panel in assisting the judge to ensure that the changes proposed are based on evidence of what matters and what works.

Mr John Whittingdale (Maldon) (Con): Does my right hon. Friend accept that some of the biggest questions during the whole of the phone-hacking saga relate to the failures on the part of the police to investigate as well as to what has been going on in newsrooms, particularly why the police appeared never to interview a single journalist who was named as a client of Steve Whittamore in the Motorman case and why they did nothing to look at the enormous amounts of material seized from Glenn Mulcaire? Does she agree that it would be unsatisfactory if these matters could not be looked at until the beginning of the second part of the judicial review? Will she consider inviting the IPCC to begin examining these questions now?

Mrs May: My hon. Friend makes an important point. As he says, part of the inquiry that is led by Lord Justice Leveson will involve looking at the first investigation by the Metropolitan police. It is not impossible for it to start doing some work while the current investigation is going on, but that would have to be done carefully in order not to jeopardise the current investigation. I am sure that we all want to see a proper investigation and a proper inquiry with answers about what happened in that first police investigation and about why matters were not taken forward in a way that people now feel they should have been. We also want to ensure that the current investigation is not in any way prejudiced by that work because we want people who have been guilty of criminal offences to be brought to book.

Mr John Whittingdale (Maldon) (Con): Does my right hon. Friend agree that what people really care about are the appalling revelations of what has been going on in the newsroom of the News of the World and in parts of the Metropolitan police, and that the public anger about that is expressly felt by thousands of hard-working and honest journalists, and by thousands of dedicated and courageous police officers? Does he agree that, for that reason, it is essential that the police investigation should be completed as quickly as possible, that the Independent Police Complaints Commission investigation should be completed and that the judicial inquiry should get under way and be completed as quickly as possible? Can he give us an absolute assurance that those investigations will now be given the priority that they should have been given a long time ago?

The Prime Minister: My hon. Friend is entirely right. We have to keep the victims of the hacking scandal at the absolute heart of this. Those are the people who have suffered appallingly already and were made to suffer all over again. The key thing here is the extent and scale of the judicial inquiry. An inquiry such as this, into the media, into malpractice, into the police and, yes, into politicians too, has not been held for many, many years. It has been talked about and debated, but it is now going to get under way and I want it to get on with its work as rapidly as possible.

Mr Whittingdale: To ask the Secretary of State for Business, Innovation and Skills how many applications for adverse possession of plots of land were made to the Land Registry in each of the last 10 years; and how many such applications were successful. [70891]

Mr Davey: Applications for registration as the owner of land on the basis of adverse possession can be divided into two types. First, there are those where the land concerned is unregistered and the application is to register the squatter as the first “registered proprietor” (in other words, the first registered owner). Secondly, those where the land has already been registered and the application is to register the squatter as the new registered proprietor.

Land Registry does not have reliable statistics for the first type of application. One of the main reasons for this is that it is not unusual for these “first registration applications” to be made on more than one basis. For example, the title deeds may not be entirely clear, and so, while Land Registry is satisfied that the applicant can properly be registered as proprietor and completes the application, it might not be clear whether he or she has a “documentary title” (the land involved falling within the extent covered by the title deeds) or a “possessory title” (the land falling outside the title deeds but the applicant having acquired title by virtue of adverse possession). Such an application may well not be recorded as being an adverse possession application.

Land Registry does have statistics for the second type of application for the financial years 2008-09, 2009-10 and 2010-11: these show that the number of successful applications of this type in these years were 1,111, 1,059 and 868 respectively.

Mr Whittingdale: To ask the Secretary of State for Business, Innovation and Skills how many applications for adverse possession of plots of land made to the Land Registry in each of the last 10 years were found to be fraudulent. [70892]

Mr Davey: All applications for adverse possession made to Land Registry are considered on their merits. Applications either succeed or fail. There are no figures kept on why applications fail and we are therefore unable to provide the figures requested.

Mr Whittingdale: To ask the Secretary of State for Business, Innovation and Skills how many prosecutions under the Fraud Act were brought by the Land Registry as a result of dishonest statements being made by applicants for adverse possession in each of the last 10 years. [70893]

Mr Davey: There have been no prosecutions under the Fraud Act made by Land Registry as a result of dishonest statements made by applicants for adverse possession in the last 10 years.

Mr John Whittingdale (Maldon) (Con): The Government are right to make clear their deep concern about the legitimacy of the trial and conviction of Mrs Tymoshenko, but does my right hon. Friend agree that it is in the interests of both our countries that we continue to press Ukraine, and that we negotiate for it to join the association agreement and to sign the deep and comprehensive free trade agreement? Does he also agree that although we should register a protest, it would be a grave mistake to break off those talks?

Mr Lidington: I do not believe that isolating Ukraine will help us in persuading the Government there to continue to move towards full membership of the European family of nations. I certainly welcome the fact that friends of Ukraine, including my hon. Friend, deliver that message clearly to the Ukrainian authorities.

Mr Whittingdale: To ask the Secretary of State for Health (1) how much Mid Essex Primary Care Trust received per capita in the latest period for which figures are available; [79233]

(2) what the average level of per capita funding for primary care trusts in England was in the latest period for which figures are available; [79234]

(3) which 10 primary care trusts received the (a) highest and (b) lowest level of per capita funding in the latest period for which figures are available. [79235]

Mr Simon Burns: Mid Essex Primary Care Trust (PCT) received funding of £1,399 per capita in the 2011-12 PCT revenue allocations compared to the national average of £1,693.

The 10 PCTs with the highest and lowest per capita funding for 2011-12 are shown in the following table.

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Mr Whittingdale: To ask the Secretary of State for Health (1) what payments the Mid Essex Primary Care Trust made to each general practice in its area in the last year for which figures are available; [79236]

(2) what the total payment per GP made by the Mid Essex Primary Care Trust was to each general practice in its area in the last year for which figures are available; [79237]

(3) what the total payment per patient made by the Mid Essex Primary Care Trust was to each general practice in its area in the last year for which figures are available. [79238]

Mr Simon Burns: The information requested is not collected centrally. My hon. Friend may wish to contact Mid Essex Primary Care Trust directly.

Mr Whittingdale: To ask the Secretary of State for Health what the average total payment made to general practices in England was in the last year for which figures are available. [79239]

Mr Simon Burns: Information on the latest total spend of general practitioner practices in England is reported by the Information Centre for health and social care and is contained in their “Investment in General Practice 2006/07 to 2010/11 England, Wales, Northern Ireland and Scotland” report. This publication has been placed in the Library.

In England in 2010-11, total payments to primary medical care contractors (in the main general practice contractors) amounted to £8.349 billion.

Mr Whittingdale: To ask the Secretary of State for Health what the average total payment per patient made to general practices in England was in the last year for which figures are available. [79241]

Mr Simon Burns: The total payment per patient made to general practices in England in 2010-11 was £151.75.


Mr Whittingdale: To ask the Chancellor of the Exchequer if he will make it his policy to maintain low value consignment relief for genuinely indigenous businesses in the Channel Islands; and if he will make a statement. [81357]

Mr Gauke: I see no case for providing businesses based in the Channel Islands with a tax advantage compared to their UK based competitors, particularly given the ease of access to the UK market provided by HMRC's import VAT pre-payment scheme for Channel Island based companies.

2. Mr John Whittingdale (Maldon) (Con): If he will take steps to reduce congestion at the Dartford crossing. [2711]

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Transport (Mike Penning): The Department and the Highways Agency are committed to improving the levels of service experienced by users of the Dartford crossing. The Highways Agency and I will consider a package of measures, including better information and traffic management to help reduce the congestion at the Dartford crossing.

Mr Whittingdale: I thank my hon. Friend for that answer, but is he aware that, since the tolls increased, the delays when approaching the tolling booths are anything up to 45 minutes and more? That causes enormous frustration to those who use the crossing, which is increased by the fact that the original intention was to scrap the tolls once the bridge was paid for rather than to put them up.

Mike Penning: My hon. Friend knows that I am personally aware of the problems at the Dartford crossing, having used it for many years. The £40 million net that we recover from the crossing is a significant income, but we need to consider technology that is being used in other parts of the world, particularly in Australia, so that we can remove the barriers and increase the speed at which traffic comes through while also picking up the revenue that the country desperately needs.

Mr John Whittingdale (Maldon) (Con): It is a pleasure to follow my Select Committee colleague, the hon. Member for Newcastle-under-Lyme (Paul Farrelly), who played a very substantial role in the Committee's inquiry, both because of his background as an investigative journalist and as a strong proponent of the reform of libel law.

I am extremely pleased to have this opportunity to debate the Select Committee report. It occupied more than a year of our time, and the coming of the general election prevented it from getting the debate that I felt it merited. At the start, it was not the Select Committee's intention particularly to focus on libel law. We realised that it was part of the agenda, but it was not the main issue. We were especially concerned with two things: the behaviour of the press in their reporting of the McCanns case, and what appeared to be the growth of a privacy law in the UK, particularly as a result of the judgment regarding Max Mosley. We devoted a lot of time to both those issues and were then slightly sidetracked into another important matter: the behaviour of the News of the World and one of its journalists in intercepting telephone calls. I do not wish to talk about that this afternoon; we spent a lot of time on it in the Committee. My main concern is to highlight that, in my view, the report's most important recommendations, which did not get the attention they merited because of the distraction caused by those other issues, were on libel, and on the concerns that are now widely felt, both in this country and around the world, about how UK libel laws operate.

I would like to put on record a few words of thanks. My thanks go to the staff of the Committee, who had to work very long hours over a lengthy period-not just the staff of my own Committee under Tracey Garratty our principal Clerk, but Hannah Stewart who was seconded to us from the Justice Committee. We also had the benefit of the advice of Professor Brian Cathcart and Sara John. We also had a lot of help from lawyers. None of the members of the Select Committee were lawyers and we were dealing with very technical and often complicated legal issues, which required several towels around the head on many occasions. We had a lot of advice particularly from people who came and gave up their time: Sir Charles Gray, recently retired from the High Court, Alasdair Pepper of Carter-Ruck, Andrew Caldecott QC, and Desmond Browne. If they had billed us at their normal rates, the House of Commons would probably have been bankrupted. They gave advice as part of a pro bono publico exercise, which was greatly appreciated.

Joan Walley (Stoke-on-Trent North) (Lab): Members of Parliament who do not have the time to sit on a Select Committee or who are not appointed to one owe a debt of gratitude to those who do serve on one. As a Member of Parliament who is not on a Select Committee, I should like to say that many of us have really valued the very detailed, technical and legalistic work that has been done by this Select Committee. Does the hon. Gentleman agree that that makes it all the more important that the Minister, in his response, should recognise that these are not just the recommendations of this particular Committee as a result of the work done by people such as my hon. Friend the Member for Newcastle-under-Lyme (Paul Farrelly) and others, but that this is the Select Committee speaking on behalf of the whole of Parliament? That is why it is important that the Government respond to the individual detailed recommendations.

Mr Whittingdale: I entirely endorse the hon. Lady's comments. That is exactly the value of Select Committees, and I am pleased to say that they are becoming more widely recognised. When we set off, we did not anticipate that the inquiry would be quite as long and detailed as it was. It was, however, one of the most fascinating and satisfying inquiries in which I have participated. At the same time as we were having the debate in the House, there was a substantial debate and a growing clamour outside the House. I should pay tribute, as my colleague from the Committee has already done, to the work of Index on Censorship, English PEN and Sense about Science. As part of their campaign they mounted a petition, which I think received 52,000 signatures, and I imagine that every Member of the House will have received e-mails from constituents expressing their concern about the operation of the libel laws. It is not an immediately obvious subject for generating great concern, but it is becoming such an important issue that a lot of people did feel very strongly about it.

The two principal conclusions that we reached-I will go into a little detail in a minute as to why we reached them-were that, in this country, the way in which the libel laws are balanced and the costs attached to going to court in a libel action, are having a seriously damaging effect on investigative journalism, standards within the press and legitimate scientific debate. As a passionate believer in freedom of speech and in the essential role that a free press must play in a healthy democracy, I believe that that matter should be of concern to every Member of this House.

However, as if that were not enough, the Committee also discovered that Britain is now cited alongside authoritarian countries as a place where the press is being suppressed because of the actions of the state-in this case, the libel laws. Committees are sometimes criticised for going on foreign trips, but, in this case, it was immensely valuable that we were able to go to America and talk to some of the people who were directly affected, including authors and journalists. We also discussed with the American judiciary how they viewed our system, and we spoke to legislators at state and federal levels. I shall deal later with libel tourism, which is very important.

A host of different issues affect the operation of our libel laws. Some of them are being dealt with, or at least addressed, in Lord Lester's Defamation Bill, and I was pleased to hear my hon. Friend the Minister speak about the Government's intention to examine all the issues and, in due course, to produce a draft Bill that we can debate at length. It is reassuring that they have taken on board the necessity of addressing the matter urgently. However, as the hon. Gentleman said, probably the biggest issue affecting the whole libel system in the UK-how much it costs for somebody to defend a libel action-is not actually covered by Lord Lester's Bill. None of us imagines that lawyers are ever cheap, but, in the case of libel, trials are often very long, no legal aid is available, and solicitors and barristers charge, frankly, eye-watering sums.

We had a slightly surreal debate in the Committee between various lawyers as to whether the average was £400, £500 or even £600 an hour. To most people, any of those three figures is extraordinary, and, given the time that can be taken, it is easy to see how the clock ticks quickly and the amount of money increases rapidly, to the extent that it is now said that the cost of a libel case in the UK is some 140 times the European average.

Paul Farrelly: Would the hon. Gentleman agree that the hourly rates actually double in many of the cases that are brought under conditional fee arrangements? The record shows that the so-called no win, no fee scenario is, as one would expect, nearly always a case of always win, double the fee.

Mr Whittingdale: The hon. Gentleman pithily encapsulates the situation, which I shall come on to later. He is absolutely right, and that makes the situation even more damaging for any defendant facing a libel action.

My hon. Friend the Minister referred to the work of Lord Justice Jackson, who gave evidence to the Committee alongside the Master of the Rolls and addressed the broader question of costs in all civil litigation. I know that the Government have listened to his advice, which was that we should not pick out one particular branch of civil law and address that, but address the whole thing together. As my hon. Friend said, that was not the view of the previous Government, and I have some sympathy with their position. The matter is urgent, which is why the then Justice Secretary, the right hon. Member for Blackburn (Mr Straw), decided to move on defamation cases ahead of the rest of civil litigation. I hear what the Minister says, but I hope that there will not be further delay-we must address the matter quickly. By all means, let us address it in the round and look at all the costs involved in civil litigation, but let us not spend a long time doing so.

Various solutions have been advocated, and we probably need to adopt a combination of them. The first thing the Committee considered was the suggestion simply to cap costs-to set a limit beyond which one should not be able to go. We accepted the evidence we received that that is a blunt instrument. It is difficult to predict the direction of a case, so capping is probably not a realistic solution. However, various solutions undoubtedly could
be introduced: greater cost budgeting and case management, and a pause every now and again to see how costs are progressing. Those are sensible options, but the real problem, as the hon. Gentleman said, is conditional fee arrangements, which were introduced with wholly good intent. I absolutely accept that the wish to make the legal process available to people who would otherwise struggle to afford it is an entirely worthy objective. The intention was that a legal practice would be allowed to charge a success fee if it won a case, in recognition of its risk in taking on a CFA. If it lost the case, it would not get any money, so the fee was a return for the risk.

The problem we discovered fairly rapidly was that the practices that specialise in CFAs are very thorough and do not actually take any risks. They go through the cases that are put to them for potential CFAs and accept them only if they are almost certain that they will win. We struggled to get the exact figures for the proportion of CFA cases that were won and lost, but it was clear that, overwhelmingly, the cases that were taken on a CFA were a pretty safe bet. On that basis, we found it difficult to understand why firms needed a 100% success fee on top of their costs. As I said, the costs are astronomical to begin with; they then double them, as the hon. Gentleman indicated, by imposing a success fee.

That is not the end of the story. An additional cost is after-the-event insurance, which is a premium taken out by the claimant in case they do not win, and which is chargeable to the defendant in the event that they lose. Such insurance can cost anything up to £65,000 plus tax for every £100,000 worth of cover, so we are now talking about almost 270% of the costs that can be awarded against a defendant in a libel action. The extraordinary thing about after-the-event insurance is that if the defendant loses, obviously he will have to pay the claimant's premium, but if the claimant does not succeed, he does not have to pay the premium. The insurance is marketed on the basis that one can take it out but not have to pay for it at all. It is simply another cost imposed on the defendant, and, because there is really no incentive for a claimant to keep costs down, it is a licence for companies to set their own sums and print money.

The effect of those three things taken together is that now many newspapers will not seek to defend a libel action, even if they are convinced that they have a strong case. They will regard it as quicker and cheaper to settle out of court. Perhaps even more worrying is that often they will not print the story in the first place, simply because of the danger that they might get sued. That chilling effect on press freedom and journalism causes great concern.

Paul Farrelly: The hon. Gentleman mentioned cost-capping and the importance of speedy reform. Does he agree that costs have become so surreal that when capping is mentioned as a measure to try to reduce them, a great number of the legal fraternity argue that actually it could increase costs because of the cost of cost-capping meetings, and that, as a consequence, nothing happens?

Mr Whittingdale: I entirely agree with my hon. Friend-I call him my hon. Friend in the spirit of the Select Committee. What he describes introduces another legal argument, which is, of course, billable. I will not say that this is a racket, but the lawyers do very well out of the process.

The Committee came up with a couple of recommendations to address these problems. The previous Government suggested that a 10% cap be set on success fees, but as my hon. Friend the Minister rightly said, the proposal did not find favour in the House when it was introduced before the election. The Committee's solution was not quite to introduce a straight 10% cap, but to say that the success fee that could be recovered from a defendant should be set at 10%. We did not feel it right to interfere with the arrangement between the claimant and their legal representatives; if the claimant wishes to pay a proportion of their damages in the form of a success fee, that is a matter for them. However, we said that the legal entitlement to recover from the defendant could be capped at 10%. Furthermore, for the reasons that I have set out, I view after-the-event insurance with some scepticism, and the Committee said that it should be made irrecoverable in its totality. I remain of the view that those two measures are sensible and would go a long way to removing the sting that currently exists in conditional fee arrangements. Obviously, that will be a matter of great debate over the coming months, and I leave it to the Minister to ponder those issues.

The issue is not just costs; there is a whole variety of other issues, many of which Lord Lester's Bill addresses. One issue is the multiple publication rule. Libel laws were written at a time when the internet did not really exist, and its advent has changed everything. That is true of the permanence of articles and statements, which can now be found on Google at the press of a button. The old Duke of Brunswick case also becomes much more serious in the age of the internet. Clearly, it is widely recognised that that should be addressed.

There are a couple of defences that must, on the face of it, make sense, but which are slightly unclear in legal terms at the moment. One is the defence of fair comment, and I want to say a quick word about the impact of libel law on proper scientific debate, an issue on which Sense About Science has done a lot of work. I pay particular tribute to Simon Singh, who is a very brave man for deciding not take lying down the legal action brought against him by the British Chiropratic Association after he suggested that there might be some debate about the medical effectiveness of chiropracy in treating certain conditions. He was willing to put up a great deal of money from his own account to appeal the judgment. Several scientific journals now say that they hesitate before carrying perfectly legitimate scientific papers that contribute to debate, because of the potential for organisations, and particularly big corporations, to bring libel actions. Libel is about whether someone is defamed; it should not be used to interfere with scientific discourse, which is important if scientific knowledge is to advance. The fact that Simon Singh was willing to defend himself and proved triumphant in the end was important and drew attention to the fact that the issue needs to be addressed.

The other defence that the Committee looked at, and which the hon. Gentleman mentioned, is the Reynolds defence of responsible journalism. The two landmark cases of Reynolds and then Jameel set out the hurdles that a defendant must demonstrate they have got over before they can use the defence of responsible journalism. There is some debate about the difficulty of meeting each of those tests, with the result that few defendants have used this defence, and that has been a cause of concern to us.

It was drawn to my attention not more than two hours ago that the outcome of the Flood v.Times Newspapers case has been published. This is the first occasion on which the Court of Appeal has overturned a Reynolds defence. Times Newspapers used a Reynolds defence in an action brought against it by a Metropolitan police sergeant. It said that what it had published was in the public interest and that it had met the relevant tests, but the Court of Appeal overturned the initial judgment on appeal. I do not want to say anything about the merits of the individual case, but I imagine that the fact that there is a further constraint on using the Reynolds defence will mean that adopting it becomes even less attractive to serious newspapers. I share the view of the hon. Gentleman that putting these things into statute carries a risk as well and that it might not be the most sensible way of strengthening them. However, it is important that it should be a legitimate defence for journalists investigating stories that are plainly in the public interest-we are talking not about muck-raking, but about serious investigative journalism-to show that they have used their best endeavours to meet all the various tests. We may need to look at that again in the light of certain developments.

Paul Farrelly: Does the hon. Gentleman agree that the conclusions of the libel working group also highlighted the danger that a codification in law could become a rigid checklist in itself? It would also be very costly to mount a defence. However, the group was more sympathetic to statutory backing for the principles that underlie a defence of responsible journalism, which have already been developed in common law. That might be a fruitful way of proceeding.

Mr Whittingdale: The degree of flexibility that that might provide is clearly better than having a very detailed set of boxes, each of which has to be ticked. The hon. Gentleman's suggestion is probably a sensible way to develop things.

Taken together, all these issues would go some way not towards weakening our libel laws, but towards restoring people's absolute right to defend their character and reputation. The other side of that coin, however, is the right of the press to investigate and to expose and the right of scientific journals to carry out legitimate debate. I hope that all those things will feature in the Government's draft Bill.

I turn now to the way in which Britain's libel laws are viewed overseas, because that should be of huge concern to the Government. The issue is encapsulated in the case of Rachel Ehrenfeld, whom the Committee met when it went to the States. She wrote a book in which she suggested that a Saudi Arabian business man, who has Irish citizenship, was in some way providing financial support to al-Qaeda and terrorism. An action was brought against her in the UK on the basis that 23 copies of the book had been sold here. Obviously, it was also accessible on the internet, so there was publication in that sense as well. However, the book was not widely available in the UK, and it is fairly clear that the case was brought here not because this was where the damage was done, or because Rachel Ehrenfeld or the Saudi Arabian had British citizenship, which they did not, but because the libel laws here were seen to favour claimants. On the back of that, we discovered that there are now widely shared fears in the United States. The Association of American Publishers submitted a statement to the Committee on the Judiciary of the US House of Representatives, which described libel tourism as

    "the cynical exploitation of plaintiff-friendly foreign libel laws as a weapon to intimidate and silence U.S. authors and publishers."

There is no doubt about which foreign libel jurisdiction it had in mind.

Dr Julian Lewis (New Forest East) (Con): I am not an expert in the area in question, although I have more than once had to bring a libel action. I think I am right in saying that in America pretty much anyone in the public eye can falsely be accused of quite serious wrongdoing but will have no recourse to a defamation suit. I acknowledge that the case that my hon. Friend used as an example is a worrying one, but I hope that he will not argue that we should adjust the libel laws in this country to prevent people who are defamed from taking action, just because in America people who are defamed are not allowed to take action. It would be a retrograde step to allow open season on reputations to the extent that that is allowed in the USA.

Mr Whittingdale: My hon. Friend raises an important point, and I agree. My hon. Friend the Member for Shipley (Philip Davies), who sadly cannot be present this afternoon, thinks that we should move towards the American system, where two things apply. First, the burden of proof is reversed and it is up to the people concerned to prove that they did not do what is alleged, whereas here a newspaper or journal must demonstrate that they did. Secondly, in America the first amendment trumps virtually everything. It is essentially impossible to get a pre-publication injunction. The Committee was told by people in public life that for such people there is essentially no defence against libel other than to make their case in public and try to convince people that what was said was wrong.

I do not go that far. Some of the criticism of the UK's libel laws in America is based simply on the fact that they disagree with our stance and think that we should adopt their system. That is not the reason I am concerned. I am concerned about the use of the UK courts by people who have no connection with the UK; it is the tourism aspect. That is a much narrower, but nevertheless very important, issue. As an example of the consequences I want to quote a joint submission to the Select Committee by Advance Publications Inc., the Association of American Publishers, Associated Press, Bloomberg, CBS television, Global Witness, Human Rights Watch, the Los Angeles Times, Macmillan, NBC, The New York Times and others. Perhaps the most important passage reads:

    "Leading US newspapers are actively considering abandoning the supply of the 200 odd copies they make available for sale in London-mainly to Americans who want full details of their local news and sport. They do not make profits out of these minimal and casual sales and they can no longer risk losing millions of dollars in a libel action which they would never face under US law. Does the UK really want to be seen as the only country in Europe-indeed in the world-where important US papers cannot be obtained in print form?"

Paul Farrelly: I do not want this to become a conversation between members of the Select Committee, but does the hon. Gentleman agree that in the internet age matters go rather further than that? We received evidence that aggressive firms in the field of so-called reputation management-the two names that came up most frequently were Schillings and Peter Carter-Ruck and Partners-were finding so-called defamatory articles on the internet and scouring the world for potential plaintiffs on whose behalf they could act, simply because the article was accessible from the UK. They could point out to such people that they might well win under Britain's libel laws and say, "So bring an action."

Mr Whittingdale: I think that there is evidence of that. I hesitate before accusing the two firms that the hon. Gentleman named, although they happened to crop up time and again in evidence. Concerns have been expressed about the way CFAs are used in ambulance-chasing cases-with ads on television saying, "Have you fallen over? Ring up this lawyer, because you can win thousands of pounds." This is basically the same thing, so there is a legitimate concern.

I think that what should really make the Government concerned, in relation to attitudes towards the British system, is the fact that it is not only publishers and newspapers who are making such comments. The UN Committee on Human Rights, members of which we met, has been very critical of the UK system. In addition, the US Government, at state and federal level, is taking action in response. We went to Albany, where New York state has passed what is called the Libel Terrorism Protection Act. The title is intended to suggest that we have been giving active succour to terrorism through our libel laws. The Ehrenfeld case was actually the cause of it; indeed, Rachel Ehrenfeld went to the New York state legislature to press for action to be taken.

The Act allows a judgment against an American citizen to be ignored or overturned in America if it is shown to be a breach of his or her first amendment rights. However, that has happened not only in New York state; such legislation is appearing in other states and has also passed into Congress. I have the report of 13 July-two days ago-stating that the Senate Judiciary Committee unanimously passed bipartisan legislation aimed at protecting authors and journalists from libel law suits filed abroad. Essentially, the New York Bill has now been taken up, and it looks as though it will pass into federal law.

When the previous Lord Chancellor, the right hon. Member for Blackburn, gave evidence to the Select Committee, he said first that he was not convinced that the situation was a great problem. Secondly, he did not seem terribly fussed even if foreign Governments were taking the attitude I have described. He said that we had learned that there had been no representations from the British Embassy to defend our system; those concerned had sat by and let these things go on. I find it profoundly worrying that Britain's closest ally-the country that, whatever one thinks of America, is regarded as a bastion of free speech-should regard us as so restrictive and hostile to the principle of free speech that it feels it necessary to pass an Act such as I have outlined. Although that Act does not specifically refer to the UK, it is perfectly clear that it is directed at this country. I hope that, given that the Bill is now actively passing through the Senate and Congress, the Minister will start to talk to American legislators as a matter of urgency, and perhaps reassure them that the Government intend to deal with the issue.

Paul Farrelly: Does the hon. Gentleman agree that, very soon after making those statements to the Select Committee, the previous Lord Chancellor was open-minded enough to change his mind completely? He added the issue of libel tourism firmly to the remit of the libel working group, and one of the four main areas on which it reported at the end of March was libel tourism and reforms to court procedures to stop abuse of process and abuse of forum.

Mr Whittingdale: Indeed, that is right, and the hon. Gentleman is correct to draw attention to it. I am delighted that the right hon. Gentleman came round to our view that the matter was a serious one, which needed to be addressed.

One or two other matters occurred to the Committee, one of which was referred to in passing by the hon. Member for Newcastle-under-Lyme, although, perhaps out of modesty, he did not devote as much time to it as it deserves. That is the issue of this place and the reporting of our proceedings. It is well known that the hon. Gentleman uncovered the existence of a super-injunction taken out on behalf of Trafigura and tabled parliamentary questions about it, which led to a spat between Carter-Ruck and The Guardian about whether it was legitimate to report the fact that those questions had been tabled. There is no question about where parliamentary privilege lies: the hon. Gentleman is completely protected under parliamentary privilege in tabling those questions.

The situation becomes a lot less clear-this was news to me-in respect of a newspaper's right to report the fact that the hon. Gentleman had tabled the questions. Previously, I had the impression that the reporting of responsible activity was allowed, under the Parliamentary Papers Act 1840, but Carter-Ruck argued vigorously with The Guardian that the super-injunction prevented the newspaper from reporting the questions. The Guardian's in-house lawyer confirmed that that was her view as well. It later became apparent that the House authorities probably shared Carter-Ruck's view. In my view, that is a profound threat to this place.

In a way, there is no point in our being able to say things in Parliament or table questions if nobody is allowed to report them. In the Select Committee's view, any uncertainty about reporting parliamentary proceedings and the extent to which privilege allows Members of Parliament to raise matters with a degree of protection against libel action, needs to be addressed quickly and removed. Lord Lester has included this in his Bill.

The two last things that I will mention are not principally about libel, but touch on it. We Committee members spent a lot of time considering privacy, and the balance between articles 8 and 10 of the European convention on human rights, which has been used to bring in a privacy law in this country. That matter touches on libel because some people now choose to use privacy legislation rather than libel legislation. Those two kinds of legislation are not separate. Under privacy legislation, people do not necessarily have to say whether the story is even true-they can just use such legislation to prevent it from being published. That needs to be borne in mind if we are going to have the thorough overhaul that I hope the Minister intends.

The last area that I should like to mention, which is complementary to libel law, is the self-regulatory mechanism adopted by the press-the Press Complaints Commission-which the Committee supports. There is a lot of debate about the effectiveness of the PCC, but it offers an alternative. If people choose to go to court and mount a libel action, it can take a long time and cost a lot of money, but at the end they might get a definitive statement that they have been defamed-and they may get a lot of money as a result. The PCC can take action quickly and is free, but people do not get any money: the most that they can hope for is a judgment by the PCC that the newspaper was wrong to carry a story. Each option has alternative attractions; each mechanism is useful, and one cannot substitute for the other.

The Committee was concerned about the most serious serial libel that has taken place in the past 50 years-perhaps within memory-which is that suffered by the McCanns, who were subjected to libel not once, but day after day, and not just in one newspaper, but in newspapers across the whole range of Fleet street. That was eventually recognised and a lot of apologies were made, and payments were also made, but that cannot have made up for what they suffered at what was already a terribly distressing time for them. We were concerned that the self-regulatory mechanism of the press appeared to have failed in that instance, and we made a number of recommendations about how it should be strengthened. The role of the PCC needs to be borne in mind when looking at libel, because it and the courts deal with similar problems, but perhaps from different ends.

I think that I have spoken for long enough, but I have spoken for so long because we in the Committee spent a great deal of time on this serious issue. I am pleased that statements in the manifestos of all three parties, and in the programme of the coalition Government, are now being progressed and that the Government have made it clear that they are determined to take action in this area. I hope that we, as a Committee, have helped that process and that we will continue to do so in the debate on the draft Bill when it appears.

3.35 pm

Mr John Whittingdale (Maldon) (Con): Does the Secretary of State agree that the relatively low price for which Richard Desmond has acquired Channel 5 is a further indication of the continuing difficulties affecting all traditional television companies, and that it also shows that successful companies are likely to have to operate across several different media in future? Given that, does he have any plans to look again at the current rules that govern cross-media ownership and cross-promotion?

Mr Hunt: I thank my hon. Friend for a thoughtful question, as ever, on the topic. He is absolutely right that media companies of the future will have to operate on different platforms. That is why one of my first decisions was to accept a recommendation by Ofcom to remove the regulations on cross-media ownership locally to allow local media operators to develop new business models that let them take product from newspapers to radio to TV to iPods to iPads and so on.

We do not currently have any plans to relax the rules on cross-promotion. Indeed, the regulations on taste, decency and political impartiality on Five remain extremely tight, but we are aware of the need to lighten regulations in general because, if we are to have a competitive broadcasting sector, we must have one in which independent players can also make a profit.

Mr Whittingdale: To ask the Secretary of State for Culture, Olympics, Media and Sport what the responsibilities of the UK Film Council are; and how he intends such responsibilities to be discharged in the future. [12102]

Mr Jeremy Hunt: The UK Film Council works alongside various partners to support the British film industry, including funding, training and promoting the UK as an international filming location and raising the profile of British films abroad.

The key mechanisms which support the UK film industry will be retained, including the system of film tax relief and lottery funding. We are considering options for some functions to be transferred to other existing bodies, with a view to reducing administrative costs.

Mr Whittingdale: To ask the Secretary of State for Culture, Olympics, Media and Sport what the responsibilities of the Museums, Libraries and Archives Council are; and how he intends such responsibilities to be discharged in the future. [12103]

Mr Jeremy Hunt: The Museums, Libraries and Archives (MLA) Council has a range of responsibilities as the strategic and expert body for the museums, libraries and archives sectors. In particular it is responsible for administering and funding the 'Renaissance in the Regions' programme for regional museums, carries out improvement and best practice work with library authorities and has a non-statutory function to advise Government on library policy. It also has responsibility for the provision of services in relation to cultural objects on behalf of the Secretary of State.

The key functions of the MLA will be transferred to other existing organisations within the next Government spending period although no arrangements have been finalised. Officials will work with the MLA ahead of its closure to ensure the smooth transfer of key functions.

The MLA website gives further information about current programmes and activities and more details on the Renaissance programme, library advisory, improvement and best practice work and the provision of services for cultural property:

Corporate records, including annual reviews, business plans and funding agreements can be found at the following link:

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