§ Lord Avebury
asked Her Majesty's Government:
Whether they will confirm the statement attributed to the Minister of State at the Foreign and Commonwealth Office, Mr. Jeremy Hanley, MP, in Al-Hayyat on 18th June 1996, that the Government are currently studying the possibility of making changes in the law because of the effect of the activities of dissidents from overseas on the relationships between Britain and friendly countries in the light of technological developments in the fields of media and communications and how it would be possible in principle to restrict the use of means of communications, or the nature of the material transmitted, for "dissidents" only, without violating the principle of equality before the law.
§ The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Department of National Heritage (Lord Inglewood)
The Broadcasting Act 1990 already disqualifies bodies having political connections from holding broadcasting licences. My right honourable friend the Secretary of State announced on 25th March that the Government intended to introduce amendments to the Broadcasting Bill which would reinforce the duty and powers of the broadcasting regulators to satisfy themselves that organisations applying for licences had no political objectives. These amendments, which were accepted in Committee in another place on 13th June, in addition create a new offence of providing false information in relation to a licence application, and provide a power to suspend satellite broadcasting licences where programmes contain material likely to encourage or incite to crime or to lead to disorder.
Noble Lords will have the opportunity to consider these provisions when the Broadcasting Bill returns to this House having completed its passage in another place.