§ 5.28 p.m.
§ Moved, That the Commons Suggested Amendments be considered.—(Lord Shepherd.)
§ COMMONS SUGGESTED AMENDMENTS BROUGHT FROM THE COMMONS
§ After Clause 1, insert the following new clause:
§ Freedom of the press
§ . After section 1 of the principal Act there shall be inserted the following section: —
§ " Charter on freedom of the Press
§ 1A.—(1) lf, before the end of the period of twelve months beginning with the passing of the Trade Union and Labour Relations (Amendment) Act 1975, there is agreed among parties including employers of journalists (or employers' associations representing such employers), editors (or editors' organisations), and trade unions representing journalists, a charter containing practical guidance for employers, trade unions and editors and other journalists on matters relating to the freedom of the Press, the Secretary of State shall lay before both Houses of Parliament a draft of that charter.
§ (2) For the purposes of subsection (1) above, practical guidance on matters relating to the freedom of the Press must include guidance on the avoidance of improper pressure to distort or suppress news, comment, or criticism, the application of union membership agreements to journalists (and in particular the right of editors to discharge their duties and to commission and to publish any article) and the question of access for contributors.
§ (3) If no such charter has been agreed as mentioned above, or if a draft charter laid before Parliament (under subsection (1) above or this subsection) is not approved by resolution of each House of Parliament as mentioned in subsection (6) below, the Secretary 58 of State shall after consultation with the Press Council and such of the parties referred to in subsection (1) above, such organisations representing workers, and such organisations representing employers, as he thinks fit, prepare in draft a charter, as follows:
- (a) where, or so far as, there appears to the Secretary of State to be agreement among the parties referred to in subsection (1) above on any matter relating to the freedom of the Press, he shall incorporate in the draft charter such practical guidance as he thinks appropriate to give effect to that agreement;
- (b) where, so far as there appears to the Secretary of State to be no such agreement on any of the particular matters referred to in subsection (2) above, he shall incorporate in the draft charter such practical guidance on that matter as he thinks fit,
§ (4) A charter agreed as mentioned in subsection (1) above, or prepared by the Secretary of State in accordance with subsection (3) above, shall define its field of operation.
§ (5) A charter agreed as mentioned in subsection (1) above, or prepared by the Secretary of State in accordance with subsection (3) above, shall provide for the constitution of a body which shall have the functions of—
- (a) hearing any complaint by a person aggrieved by a failure on the part of any other person to observe any provision of the charter;
- (b) issuing to the parties a declaration as to whether such a complaint is well-founded; and
- (c) securing the publication of its decision.
§ (6) If a draft laid under subsections (1) or (3) above is approved by a resolution of each House of Parliament, the Secretary of State shall issue the charter in the form of the draft.
§ (7) A charter for the time being in force under this section may be revised from time to time by agreement between such parties as are referred to in subsection (1) above, and the Secretary of State shall lay a draft of the revised charter before both Houses of Parliament.
§ (8) If a draft laid under subsection (7) above is approved by a resolution of each House of Parliament, the Secretary of State shall issue the revised charter in the form of the draft.
§ (9) On issuing a charter or revised charter under subsections (6) or (8) above the Secretary of State shall make by statutory instrument an order specifying the date on which the charter or revised charter is to come into effect.
§ (10) A failure on the part of any person to observe any provision of a charter 59 which is for the time being in force under this section shall not of itself render him liable to any proceedings, but in any proceedings—
- (a) any such charter shall be admissible in evidence, and
- (b) any provision of such a charter which appears to the court or tribunal to be relevant to any question arising in those proceedings shall be taken into account by the court or tribunal in determining that question."
§ Lord HAILSHAM of SAINT MARYLEBONE
My Lords, before we proceed, may I ask the Leader of the House for a little guidance? What does all this mean? This is something that has not happened before in the history of Parliament. In my innocence I assumed that what would have to be done was that the Government or somebody else would move this Suggested Amendment at the Committee stage. What arc we doing now, therefore?
§ Lord SHEPHERD
My Lords, I thought I explained the position; in fact, that accounted for most of my speech. Unfortunately, as we know, the noble and learned Lord, Lord Hailsham of Saint Marylebone, was sitting in a judicial capacity. Perhaps I might say a few words by way of explanation, especially as I would not wish him to join the one voice I heard behind me saying, "Not-Content" when the Question on the last Motion was put.
Under the Parliament Act we are required to consider the Commons Message. The Motion that is before the House is in many ways a procedural one. We have discussed the broader issues of the Commons Message, but I indicated that in Committee the Commons Message would be moved as a Government Amendment and would then be treated as any other Amendment. Of course, having done so, the Commons Message or Suggestion remains (shall I say?) in limbo. If at any stage the Bill were to be rejected it would still then be possible for that Suggestion to be agreed to and to be included in the Bill before receiving the Royal Assent. I assure the noble and learned Lord that the Motion which I have moved in no way prejudices his right to consider not only the Government proposals but any other Amendments which he might have in mind for the Committee stage.
§ Lord HAILSHAM of SAINT MARYLEBONE
My Lords, I intervened only because the noble Lord, Lord Goodman, when I ventured to call on him at his place of abode at the moment, indicated that he might have two minds about supporting the suggested Amendment and I wanted to be assured that by passing this Motion we were not in any way prejudicing his position.
§ Lord SHEPHERD
My Lords, we are certainly not being asked to agree or disagree; this is basically a procedural Motion.
§ On Question, Motion agreed to.