Amendment 35A

Media Bill - Committee (2nd Day) – in the House of Lords at 5:15 pm on 20 May 2024.

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Baroness Thornton:

Moved by Baroness Thornton

35A: After Clause 27, insert the following new Clause—“Review of broadcast content and Children’s literacyWithin six months of the passing of this Act, the Secretary of State must prepare and publish a report on how audiovisual content providers are supporting children’s literacy.”Member's explanatory statementThis new clause aims to probe the Government’s intentions regarding proposals around automatic subtitling.

Photo of Baroness Thornton Baroness Thornton Shadow Spokesperson (Equalities and Women's Issues), Shadow Spokesperson (Culture, Media and Sport)

My Lords, I hope the Minister clocked the reluctant withdrawing of amendments. Perhaps there is further discussion to be had.

I rise to move Amendment 35A in my name; I will address the other amendments when I have heard the discussion that takes place. This is a probing amendment, and the reason we have submitted it is that, during the course of this future-proofing Bill that we are discussing, while we are addressing the issues of young people and children and the changes in their viewing habits and what that might mean for their development and learning, a discussion about subtitling seems appropriate.

The context for this question is twofold. First, a recent study from YPulse found that more than half of young people prefer using subtitles. According to the survey, more than half of Generation Z and millennial media consumers prefer subtitles. Through anecdotal evidence, having millennial and Generation Z living in my household, I can say that this is certainly true. If you are scrolling through TikTok or watching Netflix with a young person, you might notice more words on the screen. The use of subtitles is on the rise.

Secondly, researchers posed the question, “How does turning on subtitles help reading?” Studies have shown that turning them on supports various reading skills, including building on children’s knowledge of words, acquisition of vocabulary, reading comprehension, fluency and speed, and decoding skills. There is a campaign, which has been running for several years, that advocates for automatic subtitling on children’s television shows in order to promote literacy. That is why we would like to probe this further and raise those questions.

I understand the Government have considered this previously, and I want to probe further the Minister’s thinking on the subject and whether the department has considered alternative or related schemes to promote literacy in children and increase their vocabulary at an early stage. There has been research that strongly suggests that having automatic subtitling on children’s television helps to turn children into more proficient readers.

Young people—although not as young as I am talking about here—prefer to watch television with subtitles. A YouGov survey found last year that 61% of young adults use subtitles while watching television. Although an older audience may find it an odd way to consume television for those without hearing difficulties or who are learning a language, it does not appear to be something that young people are opposed to.

Have the Government considered targeting specific age groups who would benefit most from the change—for example, children who are just learning to read? Although we often talk about children’s television as a monolith, “Bluey” targets a very different audience from, say, “Blue Peter”. Would having subtitles for those at the early stage of reading be more appropriate than mandating the change across all ages? Is the Minister aware of any broadcaster or on-demand providers who have plans to implement such changes to their platforms?

If the Government come to the conclusion that it is not workable to make subtitles automatic, would they consider doing more to effectively promote awareness among families of the potential power of switching to subtitles? For example, has the DCMS or the Department for Education considered working with on-demand video providers to promote automatic subtitles on children’s shows in app, as part of their settings? I am thinking of an option that parents could turn on as part of parental controls. Could the DCMS work closely with the DfE to ensure that educators know the benefits and could pass them on to parents? Of course, watching television or films would never be a substitute for reading, but evidence shows it can be a useful and effective way to supplement it.

As so often with areas of policy that impact children, we need to think cross-departmentally about how best to promote their well-being and learning. I look forward to the Minister’s response on this point. On these Benches, we are simply interested in the department’s thinking at this stage. I beg to move.

Photo of Lord Lansley Lord Lansley Conservative

My Lords, I rise to speak to four amendments in my name in this group. Although there are four amendments grouped together, they cover three separate subjects, and I hope the Committee will forgive me if I go carefully through each of those three subjects.

The first is in relation principally to Amendment 44. Noble Lords will note that Amendment 44 puts a reference to

“in the case of Tier 1 services, those set out in section 368HF” into the existing Ofcom standards code, to be found in Section 319 of the Communications Act 2003—I refer again to my involvement in the 2003 legislation with the noble Lord, Lord Puttnam, and others. Noble Lords will recall that Section 368HF in the Bill is the tier 1 standards code. It means that, in so far as Section 319 leads the standards code debate, the tier 1 standards code is linked in with Section 319 of the Communications Act.

In my view, we should do this because there is a relationship between Section 319 of the Communications Act and Section 58 of the Enterprise Act. Section 58 of the Enterprise Act includes provisions relating to a media public interest test. Where there is a potential change of ownership or control in relation to a media enterprise—which for these purposes is defined as a newspaper, or a broadcaster holding a licence under the Broadcasting Acts—the media public interest test can address, among other issues, whether the potential ownership of that media enterprise can demonstrate a genuine commitment to the standards as set out in Section 319 of the Communications Act 2003.

Incorporating this reference to the tier 1 standards code will have the effect of including the question of whether a tier 1 broadcaster—it must be somebody who has a broadcasting licence, so it does not affect every kind of on-demand programme provider—has a genuine commitment to the standards set out in the tier 1 standards code. My contention is very simple: if we are in the business of assessing the potential ownership of a broadcaster in this country and are looking at whether they adhere to the broadcasting code, we should also look at whether they adhere to a commitment to the tier 1 standards code, otherwise, in my view, we have a gap; that is, we have a standards code for tier 1 providers, but where they are a media enterprise that is covered by the Enterprise Act, we would not have any right to look at whether they were committed to those standards under the tier 1 standards code. I hope that Amendment 44 might commend itself to Ministers as closing what might otherwise be a rather embarrassing loophole at some point in the future.

Amendments 43 and 59 relate to a different question. Amendment 59 says that included in the tier 1 standards code would be

“that advertising that contravenes the prohibition on political advertising set out in Section 321(2) is not included in Tier 1 services”.

First, the tier 1 standards code and the broadcasting code are not the same: there are significant differences. Amendment 70 from the noble Lord, Lord Foster, in effect, says that they should be the same. For my part, all I sought to do was to isolate a ban on political advertising—one of the two things that are in the broadcasting code and ought to be in the tier 1 standards code; I shall come on to the other. Funnily enough, in my research, I noted that James Waterson, the media editor of the Guardian, had noted the exact same thing back on 14 April and that there was the risk of a loophole. In his article—which I assume is correct—he noted that many on-demand programme services, such as Sky’s Now TV or Channel 4, or Netflix and Amazon Prime for that matter, have said that they will ban political advertising. But that is not every tier 1 service. The article particularly noted that ITVX, as a tier 1 service provided by a broadcaster, would be able to take political advertising and had not yet excluded that possibility.

I do not think that we need to have an argument or even a debate about whether political advertising on our broadcast programmes is a good or a bad thing. I happen to think that it is undesirable that we change from our present position. Nobody seems to be proposing that we should allow political advertising on public service broadcasting, but what about public service broadcasters who provide on-demand programme services on which there is advertising? Should they be allowed to take political advertising? By extension, it seems to be a pretty straightforward argument that they should not, but at the moment, there is nothing in the Bill that would prevent that happening.

The Government might say, as they do generally in relation to online advertising, that it is not in the Bill because there is a consultation, commenced in 2021, on the online advertising programme. I looked at my former right honourable friend John Whittingdale’s response given back in July 2023. He said that there was an online advertising programme consultation to which the Government would respond, and that there was a need for legislative reform “when parliamentary time allows”. I wonder when this parliamentary time might arise, since we are dealing with a Media Bill here and now. In this instance, I feel quite strongly that if we are going to close the potential loophole on political advertising, we should do it now. That is the second aspect. Amendment 43 is just consequential to Amendment 59 and enables them to be looped back together in the structure of the Bill.

I confess that the final amendment is merely a probing amendment, after having noted that there was a difference between the broadcast standards code and the tier 1 standards code where the former includes a ban on subliminal programming or advertising. The tier 1 standards code does not include the same language, and I want to know from my noble friend why that is the case. Even though it might be that the broadcasting code provision has never been used, as it prohibits harmful broadcasting and therefore it is all okay, I am slightly worried that anybody looking at the legislation might say that it is included in the broadcast code but not in the tier 1 standards code and therefore there must be some statutory distinction made between the two codes. I do not think that should be the case. If subliminal material, programming and advertising are prohibited on broadcasting, they should be prohibited on tier 1 services as well. Amendment 58 merely asks that question of my noble friend.

Photo of Lord Foster of Bath Lord Foster of Bath Chair, Justice and Home Affairs Committee, Chair, Justice and Home Affairs Committee 5:30, 20 May 2024

My Lords, I begin by saying to the noble Baroness, Lady Thornton, that I am very supportive of her Amendment 35. Perhaps like her, I have had communications over several years from the campaign, Turn On The Subtitles, which is doing extremely good work in drawing attention to the way in which putting subtitles on by default and allowing people to be able to turn them off if they wish has been shown to provide huge benefit to children’s learning of reading.

I also say a huge thank you to the noble Lord, Lord Lansley. He and I had a brief chat the other day about his amendments. I went away and had to put a wet towel over my head in a darkened room to try to understand them, and I did not get very far. I am enormously grateful that, today, I understood the arguments that he is making. They are very much in support of my Amendment 70.

My amendment seeks to apply the Ofcom standards code—which, as we have heard, is described in Section 319 of the Communications Act—to all on-demand programme services, to ensure that there is a consistency in standards objectives across all platforms. I entirely agree with the noble Lord that we need to find ways to bring the Broadcasting Code and the current tier 1 standards code into unison. The problem is that Schedule 7, as currently drafted, will apply those standards only to tier 1 services, leaving a wide range of on-demand services entirely unregulated. It is worth recalling that the senior executive in charge of implementing the first system of VOD regulation at Ofcom, Trevor Barnes, warned last month:

“The Culture Secretary is given very wide discretion to decide who is, and who is not, caught in the Tier 1 net”.

The amendment removes that discretion and, therefore, offers far greater public protection.

As we have heard, Section 319 encompasses a broad range of standards objectives, including protection for children and protection from material that might cause harm and offence, but I will focus on Sections 319(2)(c) and 319(2)(d), which require that news be

“presented with due impartiality and … due accuracy”, and, further, that the special

“impartiality requirements of section 320” be applied—namely, that every TV and radio service must preserve due impartiality on

“matters of political or industrial controversy; and … matters relating to current public policy”.

Those requirements date back to the very beginning of commercial TV in 1954 and have ensured that we have had a highly trusted broadcast media environment that has, so far, resisted the kinds of disinformation and polarisation that is so prevalent in online information services. Preserving that trusted environment not only depends on Parliament legislating for impartiality but requires a regulator that is prepared to do its job robustly and to implement that legislation without fear or favour. For most of its 20 years in regulating the linear world, Ofcom has done just that.

But here there is a spoiler alert—I note that the current chairman of Ofcom, the noble Lord, Lord Grade of Yarmouth, is in his place, and I suspect that he will not be particularly comfortable with the view that I hold. I think it is a matter of concern that, more recently, Ofcom does not seem to apply those rules with the rigour that Parliament has required, particularly in respect of GB News. Two examples will illustrate the problem, but there are many that I could have given.

On 13 January, the GB News presenter Neil Oliver used his programme to link Covid vaccines to the non-existent disease of “turbo cancer”, a wholly fictitious medical condition beloved by conspiracy theorists. That kind of dangerous disinformation, which went entirely unopposed on the GB News programme, should have been a slam dunk for a regulator charged with ensuring both accuracy and impartiality on licensed broadcasters. A month later, after multiple complaints, Ofcom delivered its verdict:

“In line with freedom of expression, our rules allow broadcasters to cover controversial themes and topics … We recognise that these brief comments were the presenter’s personal view and did not materially mislead the audience. We therefore will not be pursuing this further”.

It did not even bother with an investigation.

Last month, the same presenter hosted a journalist, Jasmine Birtles, who suggested that action against climate change was part of a “depopulation agenda” designed to

“remove 7.5 billion people from the world”.

There was no contrary view from either the presenter or other guests on the show. What was Ofcom’s response? It simply announced on its website that the programme

“did not raise issues warranting investigation”.

When challenged, it responded that the views expressed on the show

“were clearly presented as a personal opinion, consistent with the right to freedom of expression”.

I suspect that we all support the idea of freedom of expression—it is an Article 10 right—but there is no conflict between that right and an impartiality regime that ensures that all sides of any controversial matter are freely presented. That is the law of the land, and it needs to be upheld in both the linear and on-demand worlds.

More experienced industry figures than me have been raising serious concerns for some time. Writing in the Guardian two months ago, two very senior former Ofcom executives, Stewart Purvis and Chris Banatvala, expressed their fears in stark terms. They said that

“Ofcom has repeatedly failed to quickly conclude many of its investigations, and is apparently unwilling to uphold impartiality … These failures seem to be compromising its statutory duty to act as an independent regulator and ensure a bias-free broadcast environment”.

If anyone believes that this is woolly liberal thinking, it is worth remembering that, only a few weeks ago, the eminent journalist and co-founder of GB News, Andrew Neil, attended the Communications and Digital Committee and said that he was

“surprised how tolerant Ofcom has been of GB News”, and that

“Ofcom needs to find a backbone—and quick”.

Only this morning, Ofcom reported a further breach of impartiality rules by GB News, and that it will therefore

“consider this breach for the imposition of a statutory sanction”.

I await to find out what will happen.

As I said, we have a trusted broadcast environment, which is the result of decades of commitment to both accuracy and impartiality. We look at media environments elsewhere, particularly in the US, which have slipped almost silently into a partisan and polarised approach, where lies and conspiracy theories proliferate. We do not want nakedly partial news and information on our licensed broadcast channels, and we do not want them through the back door via on-demand services or weakened regulation. As Purvis and Banatvala concluded in their article:

“It is not for Ofcom but parliament to decide whether impartiality rules should be weakened, changed or abandoned”.

I hope that my amendment demonstrates that we wish not only to retain those rules, and to extend them to on-demand services beyond tier 1, but to see them upheld by a regulator doing its job properly.

Photo of Lord Parkinson of Whitley Bay Lord Parkinson of Whitley Bay Parliamentary Under Secretary of State (Department for Culture, Media and Sport) 5:45, 20 May 2024

I was not sure whether the noble Baroness, Lady Thornton, wanted to say anything further on the other amendments, but I am happy to come in now.

As noble Lords know, following extensive public consultation on the topic, the Government set out their intention to legislate to give Ofcom powers to draft and enforce a new video on demand code similar to the Broadcasting Code, to ensure that TV-like content, no matter how audiences choose to watch it, will be subject to similar standards. Many of the amendments in this group touch on that. In particular, all tier 1 services will have to comply with the new code. The Bill has been drafted to ensure that the mainstream on-demand services will be under similar obligations as traditional broadcasters, while simultaneously ensuring proportionality in these requirements.

I will address Amendment 70, tabled by the noble Lord, Lord Foster of Bath, which would bring all UK on-demand programme services under Ofcom’s current Broadcasting Code, including special impartiality requirements for

“matters of political or industrial controversy; and … matters relating to current public policy”.

The Government have been clear about the importance of ensuring that new regulations for video on demand services are proportionate and fit for purpose, and that they take into account the unique characteristics of an on-demand environment, which the Broadcasting Code does not. There are some key differences between linear and on-demand television, and there are some specific elements of the Broadcasting Code that would be less practical to apply to video on demand services. For example, the watershed, which limits material that is more appropriate for adults to be broadcast after 9 pm, would not be effective for regulating streaming services, because its content can be chosen on demand by audiences, rather than being broadcast live at a particular time.

That is why we are giving Ofcom powers to design a new video on demand code rather than simply bringing these services under the existing Broadcasting Code. Importantly, the Bill also sets out a proportionate and practical approach to bringing on-demand services under the new code, capturing mainstream streaming services which target and profit from UK audiences. There are already over 270 video on demand services notified to Ofcom, and many of these simply do not provide TV-like content or are not widely accessible. It is essential that we balance audience protection with freedom of expression.

Extensive public and industry consultation shows us that the smallest and niche services, such as an on-demand service for a particular football team, could be unfairly and unnecessarily penalised by a blanket approach, with little or no benefit to audience protection and at a risk to the service’s sustainability. The Bill has been designed to ensure that regulation can be updated to add further, or even all, video on demand services into tier 1, if that is considered appropriate.

I hope that this explanation reassures the noble Lord, Lord Foster, that the video on demand code will have similar objectives to the existing Broadcasting Code but will be tailored to take into account the particular circumstances of audiences accessing content in an on-demand context.

I turn next to Amendment 58 from my noble friend Lord Lansley, regarding protecting audiences from being exploited by subliminal messaging—I wonder if he was trying to tell us something.

Noble Lords:


Photo of Lord Parkinson of Whitley Bay Lord Parkinson of Whitley Bay Parliamentary Under Secretary of State (Department for Culture, Media and Sport)

I thank your Lordships.

I thank my noble friend for raising this issue, as it gives me the opportunity to clarify on the record that the legislation as drafted will already enable Ofcom to draft the video on demand code to protect audiences from this type of harm. Ofcom is given an overarching duty to protect audiences from harm. The legislation does not need to list each and every potential type, although we are grateful to my noble friend for raising this issue for our consideration today. In addition, to further reassure him, on-demand programme service rules already specifically prohibit advertising which uses techniques which exploit the possibility of conveying a message subliminally or surreptitiously. These rules will continue to apply following Royal Assent to the Bill.

The noble Baroness, Lady Thornton, began our debate on this group with her Amendment 35A regarding children’s literacy. The Government are committed to continuing to raise literacy standards, ensuring that all children, including those from disadvantaged backgrounds, can read fluently and with understanding. We are very proud of the leaps and bounds that we have made on this over the last decade and a half in government. By ensuring high-quality phonics teaching, the Government want to improve literacy levels to give all children a solid base on which to build as they progress through school, and help children develop the habit of reading widely and often, both for pleasure and for information.

My portfolio covers libraries, and I had the pleasure of asking my noble friend Lady Sanderson of Welton to conduct an independent review of public libraries, which of course begins with the importance of reading and literacy. We know that one of the most powerful engines of social mobility is reading for pleasure; I echo many of the points that the noble Baroness, Lady Thornton, set out in her speech. We are currently refreshing the Government’s strategy for libraries, drawing on some of the recommendations that my noble friend Lady Sanderson made in her independent review, based on the consultation, round tables and discussion that she had with people across the country, from the sector and beyond.

The Department for Education recently made an assessment of the evidence behind the Turn on the Subtitles campaign, which the noble Baroness and the noble Lord, Lord Foster, mentioned. That assessment by the Department for Education concluded that the current evidence is inconclusive as to whether turning on the subtitles improves children’s reading. As the noble Baroness is aware, the Bill will look to improve subtitles provision on mainstream video on demand services. However, in the absence of clear evidence to the contrary, we believe it should be the choice of parents and guardians whether their child watches television programming with the subtitles on.

We have discussed this with providers, which have been clear that the technology simply is not there in many cases to turn the subtitles on by default for specific programming, even for certain ages, as the noble Baroness suggests. Short of embedding the content with subtitles—in which case viewers would not be able to turn it off—and without the absence of conclusive evidence about the benefits, we do not think that would be appropriate. However, I am grateful to the noble Baroness for the opportunity to talk about the campaign and the analysis which we have made so far.

On my noble friend Lord Lansley’s Amendments 43 and 59, on prohibiting political advertising on tier 1 video on demand services, political advertising is a fundamental part of any democratic system and is an established way for political parties and campaigners to connect with the public and have their message heard in a cost-effective manner, thus contributing to a level playing field among campaigners of different sizes and financial means. Paid political advertising on digital platforms such as YouTube and Instagram has been used by campaigners and political parties of all colours for some time, and is not objected to by the majority of those who campaign in that way.

In contrast, the legal ban on paid political advertising on television and radio, currently regulated by the Communications Act 2003, stems from a long-standing tradition which continues to be supported across the political spectrum. In considering any changes to the rules governing political advertising, the Government think it essential to consult political parties and to achieve cross-party consensus on an issue which directly affects campaigners from all parties and other campaigning groups. Regulation must be balanced with the rights of freedom of expression and public debate, which are both crucial to a thriving democracy, and no such consultation has yet been undertaken.

Photo of Lord Lansley Lord Lansley Conservative

Can I ask my noble friend two quick questions? First, have the Government engaged in any such consultation with the political parties in anticipation of this Bill, with a view to inquiring whether the ban on political advertising for broadcasters should be included for tier 1 services? Secondly, did he not tell us that the tier 1 standards code is for mainstream on-demand programme services, which are in that sense comparable with what we see in the broadcasting environment, not the more peripheral and digital access providers such as YouTube and so on?

Photo of Lord Parkinson of Whitley Bay Lord Parkinson of Whitley Bay Parliamentary Under Secretary of State (Department for Culture, Media and Sport)

It is similar but different. We have not consulted the other parties on this issue, not least because my department does not have direct responsibility for the regulation of political advertising—that falls to others. Of course, we work across government on these issues, but the simple answer to my noble friend’s question is that we have not had that that consultation. On a matter such as this, it is important to do that on a cross-party basis and to try to seek consensus before bringing forward proposals, particularly in an election year.

Photo of Baroness Thornton Baroness Thornton Shadow Spokesperson (Equalities and Women's Issues), Shadow Spokesperson (Culture, Media and Sport)

To clarify that, does that mean that the Government intend to have this consultation with the political parties about paid political advertising; in other words, are the Government thinking that they would like to change the rules and regulations?

Photo of Lord Parkinson of Whitley Bay Lord Parkinson of Whitley Bay Parliamentary Under Secretary of State (Department for Culture, Media and Sport)

No, although if the other parties wish to talk about the matter which my noble friend has raised through his amendment, I am sure we would be happy to do so. However, without that consultation and cross-party conversation on it taking place, I would be wary of proceeding with it in the Bill.

Photo of Lord Lansley Lord Lansley Conservative

I am sorry to interrupt my noble friend again but as we are in Committee, perhaps I might be allowed just to press the point. Time is of the essence here. This is the Media Bill, and we anticipate that it should be enacted before the election. It could be brought into force before an election. We know that ITVX is in this position of providing what will be tier 1 services under the Bill, and that it has not excluded that it might take paid political advertising. That is quite a significant place for a public service broadcaster operating an on-demand programme service to place itself in. Is my noble friend saying that the Government are happy for this to happen, they are content for this to happen, or that they are simply not willing to do anything to stop it happening?

Photo of Lord Parkinson of Whitley Bay Lord Parkinson of Whitley Bay Parliamentary Under Secretary of State (Department for Culture, Media and Sport) 6:00, 20 May 2024

My noble friend’s second interjection allows me to clarify an important point on timing. If he intends for this amendment to be in effect before the next general election, I must say to him that that is highly unlikely. Even if cross-party consensus were reached swiftly and changes were made to the Bill, the provisions in Schedule 5 would come into force only following the drafting and implementation of the video-on-demand code, which is unlikely to happen before the next general election. He has raised an important issue, on which there needs to be cross-party consultation and consideration before anything is brought forward but, even if that happened very swiftly, it would be unlikely to be in place before the next general election. It is important to remember also that, during regulated election periods, campaigners are subject to campaign expenditure limits when promoting paid political adverts, which further protects the level playing field between campaigners, both online and offline.

Finally, Amendment 44, also in the name of my noble friend, would allow the Secretary of State to consider the purchaser’s commitment to the video-on-demand standards code in a media merger case involving a broadcaster. While I agree with his intentions of ensuring sufficient protections for audiences, I hope that I can reassure him that this is already sufficiently covered in the Bill, in particular and elsewhere. The Secretary of State already has powers under the Enterprise Act 2002 to intervene in media mergers on the basis of a need for high-quality broadcasting and a commitment to broadcasting standards more widely. In addition, the Bill gives Ofcom the necessary tools to regulate video-on-demand services, including information-gathering and enforcement powers. Similar statutory sanctions such as financial penalties that can be applied to linear broadcasters by Ofcom will also be available to apply to on-demand services. So, for these reasons, I do not think his Amendment 44 is needed.

Photo of Baroness Thornton Baroness Thornton Shadow Spokesperson (Equalities and Women's Issues), Shadow Spokesperson (Culture, Media and Sport)

My Lords, I thank the Minister for his answer. I am quite glad that I waited to make my comments until I had heard what the Minister and other noble Lords had to say when speaking to their amendments, particularly the noble Lord, Lord Foster.

Let us first dispose of the probing amendment that leads this group. We have here a moving scenario about subtitles and we are just going to have to keep watch on that, because clearly the generations to come like subtitles on their television sets or whatever devices they are using. That is interesting, and I look forward to further research into how that might support educational purposes. I think we would all want that to happen. Some of the stakeholders have explained to me that the technology does not exist to do it easily.

Regarding the other amendments in this group, the noble Lord, Lord Lansley, has surfaced several very important questions. In terms of political advertising, on this side we are not looking to have any consultation on this, but we were seeking some clarity about whether there was a loophole in this Bill—the noble Lord, Lord Lansley, used those words—for the future. That question is still not answered, so we will need to watch that.

The main issue that these amendments, particularly Amendment 70, tabled by the noble Lord, Lord Foster, brought forward concerns robust regulators and scrutiny. What I am taking away from this debate is that there are questions about how Ofcom has conducted itself in recent times. Questions have been raised about how robust it is being, and about impartiality and those sorts of issues, and therefore the confidence that we need to have in Ofcom as we move forward with this piece of legislation. However, we will be coming on to that in later groups. The noble Lord, Lord Foster, put the case extremely well. We thought that his amendment, on the face of it, seemed a rather sensible move, so I suspect that we will return to discuss this issue in due course. I beg leave to withdraw my amendment.

Amendment 35A withdrawn.

Schedule 2: Part 1: further amendments