Digital Economy Bill - Committee (4th Day) (Continued)

Part of the debate – in the House of Lords at 9:30 pm on 8th February 2017.

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Photo of Lord Puttnam Lord Puttnam Labour 9:30 pm, 8th February 2017

I thank the noble Baroness for an extremely full response. Perhaps I may say several things. First—I probably should have made it clearer—the noble Baroness was extraordinarily helpful and generous to me during the very painful passage of that Bill. On every occasion when I sought some form of compromise, she always came up with a constructive solution. She knows I feel this, because we have discussed it, but I am very happy to pay public tribute to her.

I think that some mistakes were made in 2003. We could not look into the future, and there were things that we were not even allowed to do under our terms of reference. However, it is worth recalling that, yes, it was a government amendment that was passed at Third Reading, but it was passed, as the noble Baroness will remember, because of a crushing defeat on Report.

I have no desire whatever to go through that process again, I promise you. On the other hand, I think I have a sufficient understanding of this House to know that when it comes to the issue of media ownership and any suspicion of undue pressure, this House will again vote overwhelmingly in favour should I press these amendments. I do not think that my amendments as they stand are good enough. The noble Lord, Lord Stevenson, has already hinted at that. I would infinitely prefer the Government to come back and offer the sense of security that I seek. I very much liked the Secretary of State on the one occasion I met her. She is clearly an honourable, decent woman. It would be very helpful for her to be able to say that the standards that she would require of a licensee are exactly the same, and as exacting, as those of a bidder. I think it would be good for the Government.

I was not being silly when I discussed Theresa May’s speech. I found it a very remarkable speech from an incoming Prime Minister. I think she did lay out her stall. I think we have every reason to have expectations that are higher than we had of recent predecessor Governments. I am quite ashamed of some of the things that my own Government did in respect of cosying up to and colluding with media owners. That has got to stop.

There is a wonderful line of Mark Twain’s: “A lie can run around the world while the truth is still trying to put its boots on”. We are living in that world. We are living in a post-truth society. We can no longer afford an over-cosy relationship between the Government of the day and media owners whose job is simply to tell the truth as they see it. That is all I am seeking.

I am very grateful to the Committee. I will happily withdraw this amendment, but I am certain that we will be returning to this subject in the hope that the amendments put forward by the Government will be acceptable to the entire House. I beg leave to withdraw.

Amendment 229ZA withdrawn.

Amendment 229ZB not moved.