Lords private members' bills

12 November 2012

The House of Lords had its first chance to debate aspects of three private members' bills on Friday (9 November), about communication in prisons, online safety and airports.

A private members' bill is a type of public bill (that affects the public) introduced by an individual member of the House of Lords who isn’t a government minister. They must go through the same set procedures as other public bills. Most private members’ bills do not become Acts of Parliament; however, by creating debate and discussion around an issue, some private members’ bills can indirectly affect later legislation

Prisons (Interference with Wireless Telegraphy) Bill

The bill makes provisions about the right to interfere with mobile telephones in prisons and similar institutions.

Lord Laming (Crossbench) outlined the purpose of the bill in his opening speech: ‘It will authorise prisons to interfere with wireless telegraphy to render useless any mobile phones that cannot be found. The bill will also authorise prisons to interfere with wireless telegraphy and to gather information about the use of mobile phones in prisons, such as details about where a particular phone is located in the prison, and the person who has attempted to use it, and where the message has been directed. However, it is important to note that this does not include the content of the communication but simply the direction of the communication.’

Lord Ahmad of Wimbledon (Conservative) responded on behalf of the government, saying: 'Technology moves on and the challenges increase but, importantly, the bill addresses a vital need for the here and now. The government are delighted to support it.'

Online Safety Bill

The bill makes provisions about the promotion of online safety; to require internet service providers and mobile phone operators to provide a service that excludes pornographic images; and to require electronic device manufacturers to provide a means of filtering content.

Baroness Howe of Idlicote (Crossbench), introduced the bill, saying: ‘The objective of the bill is to improve online safety for children by empowering parents. The bill has four key provisions, which build on the recommendations of the Independent Parliamentary Inquiry into Online Child Protection, so expertly chaired by Claire Perry MP, and of which I was a member. Clause 1 would require internet service providers – ISPs – and mobile phone operators – MPOs – to provide an internet service free from pornography. Clause 2 requires electronic device manufacturers to provide a means of filtering inappropriate adult internet content at the time of purchase, where the device connects to the internet. Clause 3 requires ISPs and MPOs to provide information about online safety. Finally, Clause 4 requires Ofcom to report on the impact of the legislation every three years.’

Viscount Younger of Leckie (Conservative), responded on behalf of the government, outlining the current controls that are in place to protect children online and saying: ' I look forward to discussing these issues in more depth in Committee.'

Airports (Amendment) Bill

The bill amends the Airports Act 1986, specifically covering directions to airport operators in the interests of national air infrastructure.

Lord Empey (Ulster Unionist Party) opened the debate, saying: ‘The purpose is basically to ensure that the government have power to intervene if necessary in the event that there was a failure to connect the regions of the United Kingdom to our principal hub airport at Heathrow. I do not believe in over-involvement of government in regulation or intervention if it is at all possible to steer away from it, but the reality is that there is an economic imperative for regions to have connectivity to the centre. It is a basic principle of regionalism which has operated in this country for many decades.’

Earl Attlee (Conservative) responded on behalf of the government, saying:’ While I understand the laudable motivation of the noble Lord, Lord Empey, in proposing his bill, I must conclude that, on the basis that the bill would ultimately be incompatible with current EU law, the government will not be able to support the bill into legislation.’

What is second reading?

Second reading is the opportunity for members of the Lords to debate the main principles and purpose of the bill and to flag up concerns and areas where they think changes (amendments) are needed.

Before second reading takes place, a list of speakers for the second reading debate is opened and interested members add their names to it.

The government minister, spokesperson or a member of the Lords responsible for the bill opens the debate.

Any member can speak in the debate so this stage can indicate those members particularly interested in the bill - or a particular aspect of it - and those who are most likely to be involved in amending the bill at later stages.

Second reading debates usually last for a few hours but sometimes stretch over a couple of days.

Further information

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