My Lords, I beg leave to ask the Question which stands in my name on the Order Paper.
The Question was as follows:
To ask Her Majesty's Government what progress has been made following the undertaking by the Secretary of State for the Environment on 12th November 1975 that consideration would be given to proposing an amendment to the law of copyright with particular reference to the publication of plans in connection with planning applications.
My Lords, a Committee under the chairmanship of Mr Justice Whitford was set up in 1974 to examine the law of copyright and reported earlier this year to my right honourable friend the Secretary of State for Trade. He is now undertaking consultations on the report with a view to making proposals for amendment to the law.
My Lords, does the noble Baroness recognise that it is quite unacceptable for the Press to be denied the right to publish photographs of designs of proposed new buildings for which planning application is being made, as, for example, the proposed new building in Piccadilly Circus; and does this not make complete nonsense of the whole principle of public participation in planning which has been so strongly supported by successive Governments?
My Lords, the Department of the Environment would have preferred a clearer recommendation which allows all the documents and plans relating to planning applications and appeals to be copied not only when a local inquiry is held but also in the exercise by the local authority or by the Secretary of State of their functions under Part III of the Town and Country Planning Act 1971. But the Whitford Report, which is the property of the Department of Trade, contains some 200 pages of very close print and there is only one paragraph in that report which refers to this particular aspect. We have made our comments to the Department of Trade, and we now have to await the Minister's findings on the report as a whole, once he has completed all his consultations.
My Lords, though I thank the noble Baroness for that reply, since the Minister has—as previously stated in my Question—specifically drawn attention to the necessity to amend the law in this particular respect, may we not ask that the law should be amended without waiting for the complete overhaul of all the complicated procedures of copyright?
My Lords, my understanding is that we must wait for consultations on the Whitford Report by the Department of Trade. The Department of the Environment has made its representations to the Department of Trade and we hope that before long the latter will have issued its findings on the report.
My Lords, my question was whether this particular and rather simple aspect of the whole problem of copyright might not perhaps be dealt with separately.
My Lords, my understanding is that it is not quite so simple as that and that we have to deal with the whole thing in one go and not piecemeal.