My Lords, I have it in command from Her Majesty the Queen and His Royal Highness the Prince of Wales to acquaint the House that they, having been informed of the purport of the Digital Economy Bill, have consented to place their interests, so far as they are affected by the Bill, at the disposal of Parliament for the purposes of the Bill.
Clause 3: Bill limits for mobile phone contracts
1: Clause 3, page 3, line 26, leave out “switch” and insert “roam”
My Lords, this is a technical amendment in the sense that it seeks to correct an error which seems to have been made inadvertently in the run-up to Report. As a result— for no particular purpose, these things just happen— Clause 3(1)(b) states,
“allow the end-user to switch (at no extra charge) to another provider”,
whereas it should state,
“allow the end-user to roam (at no extra charge) to another provider”.
Those noble Lords who are not conversant with the Bill may find these words rather strange and may feel that we are making a mountain out of a molehill. However, I assure the House that this is a significant change. The issue that we are trying to address—and the reason that I am spending a little time on this, although it is a technical amendment, and I know that the Minister would like to make a few remarks in response—is that there are in this country, despite the considerable investment, care and concern of those responsible for the infrastructure, a large number of what are called not-spots. These are places within which one’s mobile phone dies and one is unable to access anything, let alone the emergency services. The reasons for this are probably more complex than I need to go into at this stage, but in essence our amendment seeks to suggest that in areas of not-spots—not across the whole country—it might be feasible for those who have mobile phones with one provider to hook on to the signal provided by another, which would provide the roaming commonly found when one goes abroad but not in the UK. The counter-argument I am sure we will hear from the Minister is that this would interfere with the current arrangements for good competition which will drive forward much better and quicker coverage of the whole country, and that therefore our proposal is the wrong way to go. However, we beg to differ.
The wording of our previous amendment may have been deficient but, given the brilliant arguments put forward by my noble friend Lord Mendelsohn and our colleague on the Liberal Benches, the noble Lord, Lord Fox, we won a vote on this issue. We therefore seek to change “switch” to “roam”, as I said. I hope this will be accepted as a technical change and that the Government will accept the amendment. However, I have just been alerted to the possibility that the current wording may still be deficient and may require further action following Third Reading. Having had a quick word with the clerks, I am pretty confident that a simple cross-referencing issue is involved, and that that can be picked up as we go forward. However, we may have to return to that if we have ping-pong on the Bill. I beg to move.
My Lords, I have just been informed by my noble and learned friend that all amendments lead to Rome. We accept that a genuine mistake was made in tabling the original amendment. Therefore, we will accept this amendment today. However, the Government have set out the arguments against requiring network operators to offer domestic roaming before, and I will try to be clearer this time as we did not have the opportunity to address those on Report. I will try to be brief.
First, domestic roaming is not mandated but it is not prohibited. Mobile networks could voluntarily enter into agreements with each other but they do not because it is costly and prevents them differentiating from competitors on the basis of coverage. As the noble Lord, Lord Stevenson, reminded us, the noble Lord, Lord Mendelsohn, told us on Report about the benefits he receives from his chosen provider, which permits roaming. This is, of course, a provider based outside the UK and the EU. However, he did not highlight the cost of that. The advertised price is £100 for one gigabyte of data and voice calls are £100 for 1,000 minutes, which is 10 times more expensive than the going rate for a standard domestic contract. That premium arises because operators have to pay other operators network access charges. Networks should be entitled to recover the cost of their investment. If one relies on another to provide coverage, it is only reasonable that fees should be paid, and those fees are of course passed on to the consumer.
Secondly, as the noble Lord, Lord Stevenson, anticipated, there is the question of the impact on investment. Our strategy has been to grow investment in infrastructure, and that has worked. It has locked in £5 billion of investment since 2014. Some 89% of UK premises are now covered by all four operators, and that percentage is growing. More importantly, this investment is closing not-spots. Ofcom forecasts that by the end of this year the number of not-spots will have more than halved since 2014. Roaming might make it easier for some people where only a single operator exists, subject to cost, but it does not do anything for those in not-spots. Extending coverage remains our priority and that needs investment.
Thirdly, if roaming were the silver bullet, why has it not been done in comparable markets? This approach has not been adopted elsewhere in Europe. The only exception is France, where there was an attempt to kick-start a new market entrant, but now, even there, the regulator is phasing out roaming. The few countries with domestic roaming—New Zealand, Canada and India, for example—have mobile markets and geographical challenges that do not make them comparable to the UK.
Fourthly, we agree that there is no need for every corner of the country to be covered by four masts. Sharing apparatus can be achieved without roaming. The new electronic communications code, in this Bill, is an enabler of more sharing, and noble Lords will have seen the support we have received from the wholesale infrastructure providers, which lead the way in this kind of sharing. However, other sharing is also being pursued, including the open access to Openreach’s ducts and poles, and Ofcom will soon be consulting on that.
Finally, the amendment is focused on allowing the opportunity to roam where services fall below standard. We are not clear what standards the amendment tries to refer to but consumers have other protections and remedies available to them: they may be subject to statutory cooling-off periods on new contracts; they may have other contractual rights; and, thanks to this Bill, they may be able to switch or to qualify for automatic compensation.
The Government will now consider further Clause 3, as amended by this amendment, when it returns to the other place. In the meantime, as I said, we accept Amendment 1 in the names of the noble Lords, Lord Stevenson and Lord Fox.
I am very grateful to the Minister for that response. I sense that we may be seeing this issue again, so I will not delay the House further. I just want to put on the record that, if there has been a reduction in the number of not-spots, it must have taken place in every conceivable part of the United Kingdom apart from the ones I travel to, because I have not noticed anything.
Amendment 1 agreed.
Clause 10: Statement of strategic priorities
2: Clause 10, leave out Clause 10
My Lords, this is a group of technical amendments to ensure that the legislation is as clear and consistent as possible.
Amendment 2 removes Clause 10, which creates a new power for the Secretary of State to set a statement of strategic priorities relating to the management of radio spectrum. On Report, Clause 104 was introduced, expanding this power to cover telecommunications and postal services, in addition to the management of radio spectrum. The introduction of this new provision means that Clause 10 is no longer necessary. I promised on Report to introduce this amendment at Third Reading.
Amendments 3 to 8 relate to the measures for age verification for online pornography. Amendments 3 and 6 remove clarificatory wording on,
“a means of accessing the internet”,
from Clause 16 and put it in Clause 23. Due to an earlier amendment, that phrase is no longer used in Clause 16 but it is still used in Clause 23, so the definition is moved to Clause 23.
Amendment 4 is one for aficionados of parliamentary drafting. It ensures that the Bill is consistent by aligning the wording of Clause 19(7)(a), which refers to,
“the House of Commons and the House of Lords”,
with the wording of Clause 27(13)(a), which refers to “each House of Parliament”. I think we will all sleep easier at night if that is consistent.
Amendment 5 clarifies that the regulator’s power to require information can be from internet service providers and any other person that the age-verification regulator believes to be involved, or to have been involved, in making pornographic material available on the internet on a commercial basis to persons in the United Kingdom.
Amendments 7 and 8 amend the definition of “video works authority” for the purposes of Clause 24, so that this includes the authority designated in respect of video games. This follows the approach to the extreme pornographic material provisions of the Criminal Justice and Immigration Act 2008.
Amendment 9 removes the provision for transitional, transitory and saving provisions in relation to the repeal of Section 73 of the Copyright, Designs and Patents Act 1988. This is a technical drafting amendment to ensure consistency between this clause and Clause 122 on commencement. I can confirm again to the House that Section 73 will be repealed without a transition period and that the Government will commence repeal without delay.
Turning to Amendment 12, I am very grateful to the noble Baroness, Lady Drake, for drawing my attention on Report to the need for complete clarity as to whom the Government are referring in the undertaking to be transferred from BT plc to a future Openreach Ltd. I accepted that a clear definition of the term “undertaking” was necessary and offered to come back with a government amendment at Third Reading to address this issue. Government Amendment 12 does this, making it clear that we define the term “undertaking” to include anything that may be the subject of a transfer or service provision change, whether or not the Transfer of Undertakings (Protection of Employment) Regulations —TUPE—apply. The intention is that all employees currently benefiting from the Crown guarantee will continue to do so if they transfer to Openreach Ltd. The Government consulted on the wording in advance of laying this technical amendment. I am grateful to the noble Baroness for assisting us, and to both BT plc and the trustee for confirming that this definition was satisfactory.
Amendments 13 to 17 relate to the Electronic Communications Code. Under the new code, an owner or occupier whose access to their land is obstructed by electronic communications apparatus without their agreement has the right to require the removal of that apparatus. Amendments 13 and 14 make it clear that this right arises only where the apparatus itself interferes with access, as opposed, for example, to a temporary obstruction by a vehicle.
Amendments 15, 16 and 17 merely correct minor omissions and referencing errors. I beg to move.
My Lords, I welcome these tidying-up amendments. I want to take the opportunity provided by this Third Reading debate to congratulate the Government once again on taking action to protect children from pornography on the internet through age verification. I shall be watching the implementation of Part 3 of the Bill closely. I would like also to put on record my thanks to the Minister for meeting with me to discuss adult content filters. I am very grateful also to noble Lords who supported my amendment at an earlier stage, highlighting the need to get a better understanding of the adult-content filtering approaches adopted by smaller ISPs that service homes with children: the noble Lords, Lord Collins of Highbury and Lord McColl of Dulwich, and the noble Baroness, Lady Benjamin.
Turning to the future, I am very much looking forward to the discussions on the Government’s Green Paper on internet safety and to their response to the Communications Committee’s report, Growing up with the Internet. Part 3 of this Bill is not the end of the story on children and internet safety.
Despite many positives, in comparing and contrasting the Bill that entered your Lordships’ House with the Bill as it now leaves, my response is one of sadness. The underlying principle of parity of content has been removed and the Bill is, in this respect, unquestionably weaker as a result.
In the first instance, the Bill entered your Lordships’ House properly applying the same adult content standard online as applied offline. It leaves your Lordships’ House saying that most material that the law does not accommodate for adults offline will be accommodated online behind age verification. Only the most violent pornography—that which is life-threatening or likely to result in severe injury to breast, anus and genitals—will be caught. Injury or severe injury to other parts of the body appear to be fine as long as they are not life-threatening. As the Bill leaves us, the message goes out loud and clear that violence against women—unless it is “grotesque”, to quote what the Minister said on Report—is, in some senses, acceptable.
In the second instance, the Bill entered your Lordships’ House properly applying the standard of zero tolerance to child sex abuse images, including non-photographic and animated child sex abuse images. Today it leaves your Lordship’s House with the relevant powers of the regulator deleted so that it can no longer take enforcement action against animated child sex abuse images that fall under the Coroners and Justice Act 2009. As such, the Bill goes out from us today proclaiming that non-photographic images of child sex abuse, including animated images, are worthy of accommodation as long as they are behind age verification.
As agreed, Third Reading is a time for tidying up. However, Part 3 of the Bill clearly requires further amendment so that the message can go out once again—as it did in the other place—that there is no place for normalising violence against women and no place for accommodating any form of child sex abuse. I hope that the other place will now rise to that challenge.
My Lords, I do not wish to detain the House unduly on these amendments. I welcome, in particular, Amendment 9 as it is the fulfilment of a pledge made by the Minister on Report. I am delighted that Section 73 of the Copyright, Designs and Patents Act will be no more as soon as the Bill comes into effect. I am delighted that the Minister has fulfilled his undertaking.
My Lords, I, too, thank the noble Lord, Lord Ashton, for tabling Amendment 12, which gives greater clarity to the BT and Openreach employees covered by the provisions of Clause 119. The Government have also made clear their intention to engage fully with the BT pension scheme trustee and for that I am also grateful. I hope their discussions go well.
My Lords, I am grateful for those comments. I take the point of the noble Baroness, Lady Howe, that there is still work to do. As she mentioned, the internet safety strategy Green Paper will be with us in June.
Amendment 2 agreed.
Clause 16: Internet pornography: requirement to prevent access by persons under the age of 18
3: Clause 16, page 20, line 1, leave out paragraph (b)
Amendment 3 agreed.
Clause 19: Parliamentary procedure for designation of age-verification regulator
4: Clause 19, page 23, line 10, leave out “the House of Commons and the House of Lords” and insert “each House of Parliament”
Amendment 4 agreed.
Clause 20: Age-verification regulator's power to require information
5: Clause 20, page 23, line 26, leave out “a” and insert “any other”
Amendment 5 agreed.
Clause 23: Age-verification regulator's power to give notice of contravention to payment-services providers and ancillary service providers
6: Clause 23, page 26, line 42, at end insert—
“(6) For the purposes of subsection (5)(b), a means of accessing the internet does not include a device or other equipment for doing so.”
Amendment 6 agreed.
Clause 24: Meaning of "extreme pornographic material"
Amendments 7 and 8
7: Clause 24, page 27, line 17, leave out “the” and insert “a”
8: Clause 24, page 27, leave out line 21 and insert—
““video works authority” means a person designated under section 4(1) of the Video Recordings Act 1984;”
Amendments 7 and 8 agreed.
Clause 37: Copyright etc where broadcast retransmitted by cable
9: Clause 37, page 36, line 8, leave out subsections (3) to (5)
Amendment 9 agreed.
Clause 113: Functions relating to regulations under section 112
10: Clause 113, page 124, line 3, at end insert—
“( ) such representatives of persons likely to be affected by the regulations as the Secretary of State thinks appropriate, and( ) such other persons as the Secretary of State thinks appropriate.”
My Lords, the Government’s Amendments 10 and 11 acknowledge the DPRRC’s recommendations in relation to improved safeguards for the proposed charging regulations for the Information Commissioner. I committed to making these amendments on Report.
Amendment 10 will make it a requirement for the Secretary of State to consult,
“such representatives of persons likely to be affected by the regulations as the Secretary of State thinks appropriate, and … such other persons as the Secretary of State thinks appropriate”.
Amendment 11 will make it a requirement for the Secretary of State to use the affirmative procedure when making regulations under the new charging power, except for in cases of inflation increases, when the negative procedure will apply.
On Report, the noble Lords, Lord Collins and Lord Clement-Jones, sought assurances that the proposed ICO charging power clauses could not be used by the Secretary of State to set charges that allow for the over-recovery of costs to fund functions that are not currently in the ICO’s remit. ICO charges are set on a cost recovery basis and will continue to be set on that basis. I want to make it clear that the Government have no intention of setting charges that exceed the costs needed by the ICO to carry out its data protection responsibilities. As noble Lords will know, the £35 annual fee charged to 90% of data controllers by the ICO has not risen since 2001 and the £500 fee charged to large data controllers has not risen since 2009. Throughout the negotiations on the EU general data protection regulation, the Government fought hard to minimise the burdens on business while protecting the privacy rights of individuals. The Government will continue to seek to minimise the burden on business by setting fees that recover only the costs which are necessary for the ICO to run an effective data protection regulatory regime fit for the challenges of the 21st century digital economy.
On the issue of function creep, I would like to reassure noble Lords that Clause 113 (2)(a) clearly sets out the functions for which the Secretary of State can make regulations to raise charges for the ICO. If in the future the Government wish to raise charges to fund additional functions not listed in Clause 113, should that be appropriate, the Government would need to amend subsection (2)(a) by primary legislation.
Finally, I hope that it will reassure noble Lords to learn that the clauses will now contain a number of additional safeguards against excessive charging. These include a requirement to consult the ICO and representatives of data controllers before bringing forward regulations to set or amend fees; a requirement for the Secretary of State to review the fees every five years to ensure that they are still relevant and proportionate, and a requirement for the Secretary of State to use the affirmative procedure when making regulations under the new power except in the case of inflation increases, when the negative procedure will apply. I beg to move.
My Lords, I thank the Minister for his introduction to Amendment 10. This amendment may not be the full loaf, but it certainly is three-quarters of a loaf in terms of an assurance on the two matters which gave us concern, the first of which was the extent to which the charges might exceed the costs incurred by the ICO. The Minister’s assurance is very helpful in terms of the operation of Clause 113, as is his assurance on mission creep, which is something that the noble Lord, Lord Collins, was particularly concerned about. Again, I am grateful to the Minister for his two assurances.
My Lords, I too am grateful for the assurances that the Minister has given us and I thank the Delegated Powers Committee for its excellent report which drew specific attention to this issue. The committee’s concern was not without evidence and it gave an example in relation to probate—I notice that the noble and learned Lord, Lord Keen, is in his place—so it is an issue that was very much in people’s minds when considering this part of the Bill. However, the assurances given by the Minister are clear and concise. We have protections in terms of parliamentary scrutiny, in particular in relation to the element of function creep where there is a requirement for primary legislation. I welcome and support the amendment.
Amendment 10 agreed.
Clause 114: Supplementary provision relating to section 112
11: Clause 114, page 125, line 6, leave out subsection (2) and insert—
“(2) A statutory instrument containing regulations under section 112(1) or (5) may not be made unless a draft of the instrument has been laid before, and approved by a resolution of, each House of Parliament. (2A) Subsection (2) does not apply to a statutory instrument containing regulations which—(a) only make provision increasing a charge for which provision is made by previous regulations under section 112(1), and(b) do so to take account of an increase in the retail prices index since the previous regulations were made.(2B) Such a statutory instrument is subject to annulment in pursuance of a resolution of either House of Parliament.(2C) In subsection (2A) “the retail prices index” means—(a) the general index of retail prices (for all items) published by the Statistics Board, or(b) where that index is not published for a month, any substituted index or figures published by the Board.”
Amendment 11 agreed.
Clause 119: Guarantee of pension liabilities under Telecommunications Act 1984
12: Clause 119, page 128, line 42, at end insert—
““undertaking” includes anything that may be the subject of a transfer or service provision change, whether or not the Transfer of Undertakings (Protection of Employment) Regulations 2006 (S.I. 2006/246) apply.”
Amendment 12 agreed.
Schedule 1: The electronic communications code
Amendments 13 to 15
13: Schedule 1, page 153, line 42, leave out “on, under or over other land” and insert “kept on, under or over other land in exercise of a right mentioned in paragraph 13(1),”
14: Schedule 1, page 153, line 44, leave out from second “the” to “interferes” in line 45 and insert “apparatus”
15: Schedule 1, page 180, line 22, leave out “of the land on which the tree is growing”
Amendments 13 to 15 agreed.
Schedule 2: The electronic communications code: transitional provision
Amendments 16 and 17
16: Schedule 2, page 194, line 24, leave out “12” and insert “14”
17: Schedule 2, page 195, line 22, leave out from “any” to end of line 27 and insert “application or order made under paragraph 6 of the existing code.”
Amendments 16 and 17 agreed.
That the Bill do now pass.
My Lords, in moving this Motion, I express grateful thanks to all noble Lords who have contributed to the Bill’s passage and shared their knowledge on the wide variety of subjects covered by it. It seems a long time since December, when we referred to Christmas tree Bills. As we now approach Easter, I express my gratitude to both Opposition Front Benches for their openness and co-operation, especially to the two ringmasters, if I may call them that, the noble Lords, Lord Stevenson and Lord Clement-Jones, but also to the other noble Lords: the noble Baronesses, Lady Jones, Lady Bonham-Carter and Lady Hamwee, and the noble Lords, Lord Mendelsohn, Lord Collins, Lord Grantchester, Lord Wood, Lord Foster, Lord Fox and Lord Paddick, all of whom have led on various parts of the Bill. I am very grateful to them.
Most importantly, I pay tribute to and thank Andrew Elliot, Patrick Whitehead and all the other members of the Bill team, and to my private office, Matt Hiorns and Martha London, who have shown tremendous resilience, patience and humour over the last four months while the Bill was in this House. I am very grateful to all of them. I beg to move.
My Lords, a few years ago I used to complain to my colleagues that I had drawn a short straw in the sense that many of my other colleagues were in departments that were constantly dealing with meaty legislation, while we shadowing the DCMS had to make do with the occasional debate and even sometimes a rather thin Question, usually organised by the indefatigable noble Earl, Lord Clancarty, from the Cross Benches. Is it a coincidence, I asked myself, that since the Minister took over the brief we have had not only the BBC royal charter to deal with, but three and a half Bills? The half was the Law Commission’s Intellectual Property (Unjustified Threats) Bill, which was a bit of a mixed bag between the DCMS and BEIS. It was really introduced under the last regime, but we have had to keep a close watching eye on it and on the other place, even though it was a Law Commission Bill. It is of course exhilarating to be at the very heart of public policy-making and it has been great fun, but it is also absolutely exhausting.
At pride of place in this canon of interesting Bills is the Digital Economy Bill. As the Minister said, it has generated a considerable amount of interest across the House. With its many disparate parts, it allowed the House to play a very full and important role as it scrutinised every clause and virtually every line, as it should. It is what we do and we do it well.
I thank the Minister, the noble Baroness, Lady Buscombe, and the noble and learned Lord, Lord Keen, for their very full participation in the Bill. They were engaged on all the issues. We were able to get hearings and discussions with them when we wanted them. I am only sorry that they had to stand down the Deputy Leader of the House on one amendment that was not moved. I am sure that he would have added considerably to the debate and given us a full hand of stars. The tone throughout has been one of unfailing courtesy. While the willingness to write to us on matters of detail was not up to the high standards set by the noble Viscount, Lord Younger, who is in his place—how could it be?—it is much appreciated. We also appreciated the direct involvement of the Minister in the other place, particularly on Part 3.
I believe the House should be willing to put on record exemplary service when it comes across it. I award this year’s prize for Bill support, if there is any justice in this world, to the Digital Economy Bill team, whose opening gambit of a neatly bound and very substantial pack of all the documents you could possibly want set the gold standard for work of this type. They were very helpful in letting us know what was going on, even when I suspect they would have rather remained silent. We appreciate that they were always willing to organise meetings, even on occasion tracking down Ministers who had gone AWOL.
My Front Bench team has been superb. I am very grateful to my noble friend Lady Jones of Whitchurch, who led on the difficult and ongoing work to do with age verification. My noble friend Lord Collins of Highbury relished the chance to lead on an issue—horseracing—unrelated to his usual stomping grounds, and coined the phrase “function creep”, which I am sure will be adorning your Lordships’ debates in years to come. My noble friend Lord Grantchester led on the rather dull, but it turns out rather rewarding, area of the electronic communications accord, which paid dividends in a number of amendments that we were able to secure. My noble friend Lord Mendelsohn, who I am sorry is not with us today, dealt very capably with the USO and related issues. My noble friend Lord Wood helped us with the amendments consequent on the BBC charter renewal.
Our legislative assistant, Nicola Jayawickreme, has been a class act and has kept us going with the background material so necessary for effective observation as well as dealing with the Public Bill Office and drafting so many amendments, even one on the day her flat was flooded and she had to move out all her belongings.
As I approach the end of my active Front-Bench responsibilities in your Lordships’ House, working on this Bill will be one of the memories I most cherish.
My Lords, I should feel awful, but I neglected to mention my noble friend Lady Buscombe and my noble and learned friend Lord Keen, who helped enormously. I had written it down on my notes, but, as usual, I did not pay any attention to them. I want to pay tribute to them and thank them very much.
My Lords, I am sure that they would have been mentioned fulsomely by other Benches as well. I have not laboured in the vineyard quite as much as the noble Lord, Lord Stevenson. I have not had multiple Bills simultaneously to deal with—and one can only admire that kind of stamina—but, still, the passing of this Bill carries a sense of relief given the variety of subject matter that we have had to deal with during the past few months. The Minister said that it was from Christmas to Easter; these Bills are seasonal in their nature.
We certainly have not achieved everything that we wanted, but I believe that the Bill is leaving this House in much better shape than that in which it arrived. As the noble Lord, Lord Stevenson, implied, it is certainly a very meaty Bill. It is also a disparate Bill, covering a huge range of issues most of which are unified only by the word “digital”. That was quite a challenge for all those who were trying to cover the whole subject matter of the Bill.
I want to thank my own colleagues, particularly my noble friends Lord Paddick, Lord Fox, Lord Foster, Lord Lester, Lord Storey, Lord Addington, Lady Bonham-Carter, Lady Hamwee, Lady Janke, Lady Benjamin and Lady Grender. I thank our adviser team, particularly Elizabeth Plummer, Rosie Shimell and Vinous Ali. I want also to thank the Opposition Front Bench—the indefatigable noble Lord, Lord Stevenson, the noble Baroness, Lady Jones, and the noble Lords, Lord Collins, Lord Wood and Lord Grantchester—for their collaborative approach. Of course, I thank many others on the Cross Benches, including the noble Lord, Lord Best, with his successful amendment, the noble Viscount, Lord Colville, and the noble Baroness, Lady Howe—indefatigable is too small a word for her.
“Indestructible” is suggested to me by the Opposition Front Bench.
Finally and very sincerely, I thank the noble Lord, Lord Ashton, the noble and learned Lord, Lord Keen, the noble Baroness, Lady Buscombe, and the Bill team. I echo what the noble Lord, Lord Stevenson, had to say about the Bill team for their willingness to engage constructively, explain, amend and give what assurances they could throughout the passage of the Bill. We welcomed considerable movement during that time: changes in definition of “extreme pornographic material”, appeals on site blocking, the incorporation of many of the DPRRC amendments and new Ofcom powers—my noble friend Lady Benjamin is not in her place; she is probably celebrating somewhere the fact that Ofcom has new powers in respect of children’s programmes. There were amendments on remote e-book lending and listed events—the list goes on, which demonstrates that the Government were listening.
Of course, we anticipate ping-pong with great delight. I think that some six amendments to the Bill were passed. I hope that the Government will give consideration to them and not just bat them back to this House. They were all carefully thought through. I hope that we will see some changes as a result of those amendments in this House.
Of course, we did not get everything on our shopping list as the Bill went through. On Ofcom appeals, the noble and learned Lord, Lord Keen, stood fast on Clause 85. I hope that in the future we might find some change on compulsory anonymisation for age verification, and I think that IPTV is something that may come back to haunt us. I hope that the consultation will demonstrate the absolute need for amendments in the future. I am sure that my noble friend Lord Lester will also be returning by popular demand to the question of the statutory underpinning of the BBC charter. In the meantime, I thank the Minister and look forward to the passing of the Bill.
My Lords, I add my great thanks to the Minister, on behalf of all the people I was talking to, for his intelligent and sensitive handling of the rather difficult, tortuous, twisting turns which were confusing what we saw as the perceived prime purpose of Part 3. I think we got there and have something that is going to be workable. I just hope that the regulator, when it gets operational, will find that what is coming out of the British Standards Institution PAS 1296 will be helpful in trying to make sure that age verification works in protecting children from accessing all the adult content online, which was the only bit that I was dealing with. Thank you very much indeed.
My Lords, I suspect that this is au revoir and not adieu to the Bill, if one is still allowed to use French in this House. I thank the Minister for putting up with endless conversations with me about statutory underpinning or something instead. I thank him for arranging for me to see the Culture Secretary, which I look forward to doing if she is free to do so before the Bill comes back. I make it clear that I am agnostic about how to achieve the protection of the BBC’s independence and viability—whether in the charter, in statutory underpinning or in undertakings given by Ministers. My difficulty at the moment is that we have still not had those undertakings, but I look forward to future debates.
Bill passed and returned to the Commons with amendments.