Lord Puttnam (Labour)
My Lords, I offer the Government two and a half cheers. They are to be congratulated. An enormous amount of work has gone into making the amendment possible. I would personally like to thank Paula Carter, who has helped me enormously, and the Bill team, who have done Trojan work. I am not sure that they will thank me for thanking them, but they have done an extraordinary job in hammering through what is in some senses new law. We have come a long way.
These amendments must be seen as all of a piece with the amendments to the general duties that we have already agreed. Together, those provisions are the double bolts. I have now talked to enough lawyers and judges, who have assured me that those two aspects of the Bill, taken together, represent a very serious impediment to the type of dominance that the clause is intended to prevent.
That is one thing. I come to the other issue. Several noble Lords mentioned the Financial Times article. The last Division went as it did—but I have to tell the Government that I believe that the Division was quite avoidable. It was caused by a misbriefing given to the Financial Times last week, which gave the impression for whatever reason that the amendment might not bite as the Government intended, or as the proposers of the amendment intended. That could have been avoided.
I beg the Government to do two things. First, I ask them not to be tempted by the wish expressed by the noble Baroness, Lady Buscombe, to restrict the breadth of what has been created. That breadth is very important. Secondly, they should make it very clear, and not only in this Chamber but outside, that they have taken a big step in a very important direction and are intent on giving the noble Lord, Lord Currie, all the powers and all the encouragement to take the route that the House has clearly indicated.
There is real fear about media dominance. The Government have come a long way in accepting those fears, which have been made apparent today by the comparative narrowness of the previous Division. However, I look for some form of assurance that we will not be battered next week by the type of Commons amendments that would undermine much of the good work achieved in this House over the past weeks and months. I welcome the amendment gratefully.