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Dr. Howells: New clause 4 would require the establishment of Ofcom offices in Wales and Scotland. I am happy to confirm what I and my right hon. Friend the Member for Islington, South and Finsbury (Mr. Smith), when he was Secretary of State for Culture Media and Sport, have said on the matter. I reassure the hon. Member for Ceredigion (Mr. Thomas) that Ofcom will have a presence of the sort that he wants, and I confirmed as much when the Bill was discussed in the Standing Committee. Indeed, some of the existing regulators already have offices in the nations and regions. No doubt, Ofcom will want to consider how that resource might best be utilised.

New clause 4 is, of course, limited to Wales and Scotland, and I suspect Ofcom will also wish to consider what presence will be necessary elsewhere—in Northern Ireland and, I imagine, in the English regions, given the importance of broadcasting and of other telecommunications industries in other parts of the country. The precise size and nature of any presence in the nations will be a matter for Ofcom to decide, as there will be direct cost and manpower implications for the new organisation.

Amendment No. 15 would ensure that Ofcom has a single member to represent the interests of Wales and Scotland. As I said previously, the Bill provides Ofcom with one function—to prepare itself for taking on other functions once Parliament has considered the main communications Bill. During this initial phase, Ofcom will deal only with practical issues relating to the transfer of the staff, property and other assets and liabilities of the existing regulators.

At this stage, therefore, I cannot envisage any matters of a specifically Welsh or Scottish nature that would warrant ensuring that the interests of Wales and Scotland should be represented on the Ofcom board. That applies equally, of course, to the interests of Northern Ireland and the English regions, as well as to the interests of the many other groups who may have a stake in Ofcom's activities.

It will be important to ensure that legitimate interests should be properly reflected in the structure of Ofcom. The communications Bill will set out how we propose to ensure that the interests of the nations and regions are to be represented in Ofcom.

I turn to amendment No. 16. Honourable Members must bear it in mind that, in the main, telecommunications, broadcasting and spectrum issues are reserved matters. It is not therefore appropriate for my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State to have to consult the Welsh Assembly and the Scottish Parliament on every appointment to Ofcom that she proposes. Those appointments will reflect the need for the Ofcom board to have particular skills and expertise. Indeed, an appointment may result from the need to have a board member who reflects the exact nature of broadcasting and telecommunications in Wales. However, my right hon. Friend will decide such matters on merit.

6 Mar 2002 : Column 335

Mr. Simon Thomas: Will the Minister give way?

Dr. Howells: No. We have spent many minutes discussing the matter, and I am going to move on.

My right hon. Friend the Secretary of State will be able to ensure that those general requirements are properly met.

With regard to amendment No. 17, the Bill provides that Ofcom should prepare an annual report of its proceedings and submit it to the Secretary of State, who must then lay a copy before each House. There is no reason why the report should not include matters relevant to the interests of the devolved nations. I am sure that there will be areas of Ofcom's activities in which the National Assembly for Wales and Scottish Parliament will have legitimate interests. I believe that it would therefore be appropriate for Ofcom's annual report to be made available to the Assembly and to the Scottish Parliament in order to facilitate debate; but that should be a subject for concordats rather than a matter to appear in the Bill.

Amendment No. 18 proposes establishing specific Welsh and Scottish advisory committees. The Bill contains provisions that allow Ofcom to set up committees as it sees fit. There is nothing to stop it establishing advisory committees on national or regional issues if it considers that there is a specific need. I see no need for Ofcom to be required to set up specific Welsh and Scottish committees during the initial phase, when it will only be undertaking preparations for its future role.

I also believe that requiring a Welsh and Scottish member to be appointed to every committee established by Ofcom, as amendment No. 19 suggests, goes much too far. Where devolved nations have legitimate interests in the work of the committees that it may establish, Ofcom will, of course, want to ensure suitable arrangements for those interests to be properly heard. However, there may well be cases where Ofcom sets up committees on matters in relation to which there are no discernable Welsh or Scottish interests. It would be entirely wrong in such cases for Ofcom to be placed under an obligation to appoint Welsh and Scottish representatives to them.

For all those reasons, I oppose the amendments.

Mr. Thomas: I want to reply briefly to the Minister's remarks. I am grateful for the support that I have received for some of the amendments from the hon. Members for Lichfield (Michael Fabricant) and for Vale of York (Miss McIntosh). I was interested in the Scottish perspective provided by the hon. Member for Edinburgh, North and Leith (Mr. Lazarowicz), and especially in the comments from the Scottish Consumer Council. I was not aware of those comments, and I am grateful to the hon. Gentleman for giving the House that information.

Two central principles are at stake. As the hon. Member for Vale of York said, the White Paper made it clear that there should be some form of consultation between the devolved bodies and Ofcom. In addition, the National Assembly for Wales made it clear that it wanted more than consultation. It said that it wanted representation, and that it wanted to choose its representative on Ofcom. I point out that the Assembly in controlled by Labour.

6 Mar 2002 : Column 336

The hon. Member for Vale of York asked why I had not changed my proposals. The reason is that, as I said, the National Assembly for Wales wanted representation as well as consultation. I hope that she accepts that explanation of why I was not able to accede to her arguments in Committee.

The Minister has not promised representation, or that the National Assembly will be able to select or appoint Ofcom members. He has not even offered consultation, and he has not promised any connection between Ofcom and the devolved bodies in Wales and Scotland. He has said clearly that, because the matters involved are retained and not devolved, there should be no formal arrangements such as those proposed in the amendments.

I point out that the Strategic Rail Authority has formal arrangements with the Scottish Parliament and with National Assembly for Wales. [Interruption.] I must tell the hon. Member for Rhondda (Mr. Bryant), who has been making sedentary comments throughout the debate but does not see fit to take part, as always, that railways are not devolved to the National Assembly for Wales, so the new clause explores a very important principle—a principle more important than the question whether Ofcom has X members or whether a member represents Wales or bits of Scotland and so on. The important principle is this: when we now set up UK-wide bodies, post devolution, how do they relate to the National Assembly for Wales and the Scottish Parliament? The Minister's response to that question was totally inadequate, so I shall seek to press the new clause to a Division.

Question put, That the clause be read a Second time:—

The House divided: Ayes 62, Noes 301.

Division No. 184
[6.10 pm


Baker, Norman
Barrett, John
Beggs, Roy
Beith, Rt Hon A J
Brake, Tom
Breed, Colin
Brooke, Mrs Annette L
Burnett, John
Burstow, Paul
Cable, Dr Vincent
Calton, Mrs Patsy
Campbell, Rt Hon Menzies
(NE Fife)
Carmichael, Alistair
Cotter, Brian
Davey, Edward (Kingston)
Doughty, Sue
Duncan, Peter (Galloway)
Ewing, Annabelle
Fabricant, Michael
Foster, Don (Bath)
George, Andrew (St Ives)
Gidley, Sandra
Green, Matthew (Ludlow)
Hancock, Mike
Harris, Dr Evan (Oxford W)
Harvey, Nick
Heath, David
Hermon, Lady
Hogg, Rt Hon Douglas
Hughes, Simon
(Southwark N)
Jones, Nigel (Cheltenham)
Keetch, Paul
Kennedy, Rt Hon Charles
(Ross Skye & Inverness W)
Kirkwood, Archy
Lamb, Norman
Laws, David
Marsden, Paul (Shrewsbury)
Moore, Michael
Öpik, Lembit
Pugh, Dr John
Reid, Alan (Argyll & Bute)
Rendel, David
Robertson, Angus (Moray)
Russell, Bob (Colchester)
Salmond, Alex
Sanders, Adrian
Smith, Sir Robert (W Ab'd'ns)
Spink, Bob
Stunell, Andrew
Taylor, Matthew (Truro)
Taylor, Sir Teddy
Thomas, Simon (Ceredigion)
Thurso, John
Tonge, Dr Jenny
Trimble, Rt Hon David
Tyler, Paul
Webb, Steve
Weir, Michael
Williams, Hywel (Caernarfon)
Williams, Roger (Brecon)
Willis, Phil
Younger–Ross, Richard

Tellers for the Ayes:

Pete Wishart and
Mr. Elfyn Llwyd.


Abbott, Ms Diane
Ainger, Nick
Ainsworth, Bob (Cov'try NE)
Alexander, Douglas
Allen, Graham
Anderson, Janet (Rossendale)
Armstrong, Rt Hon Ms Hilary
Atherton, Ms Candy
Atkins, Charlotte
Austin, John
Bailey, Adrian
Baird, Vera
Barnes, Harry
Barron, Kevin
Beard, Nigel
Beckett, Rt Hon Margaret
Bell, Stuart
Benn, Hilary
Bennett, Andrew
Benton, Joe
Berry, Roger
Blears, Ms Hazel
Blizzard, Bob
Boateng, Rt Hon Paul
Borrow, David
Bradley, Rt Hon Keith (Withington)
Bradley, Peter (The Wrekin)
Bradshaw, Ben
Brown, Russell (Dumfries)
Bryant, Chris
Burden, Richard
Burgon, Colin
Byers, Rt Hon Stephen
Cairns, David
Campbell, Alan (Tynemouth)
Campbell, Mrs Anne (C'bridge)
Campbell, Ronnie (Blyth V)
Caplin, Ivor
Casale, Roger
Caton, Martin
Cawsey, Ian
Challen, Colin
Chaytor, David
Clapham, Michael
Clark, Mrs Helen (Peterborough)
Clark, Dr Lynda
(Edinburgh Pentlands)
Clark, Paul (Gillingham)
Clarke, Rt Hon Charles
(Norwich S)
Clarke, Rt Hon Tom (Coatbridge)
Clarke, Tony (Northampton S)
Clelland, David
Coaker, Vernon
Coffey, Ms Ann
Connarty, Michael
Cook, Frank (Stockton N)
Cook, Rt Hon Robin (Livingston)
Cooper, Yvette
Corston, Jean
Cousins, Jim
Cranston, Ross
Crausby, David
Cruddas, Jon
Cryer, John (Hornchurch)
Cummings, John
Cunningham, Rt Hon Dr Jack
Cunningham, Jim (Cov'try S)
Cunningham, Tony (Workington)
Dalyell, Tam
Davey, Valerie (Bristol W)
Davidson, Ian
Davies, Rt Hon Denzil (Llanelli)
Davies, Geraint (Croydon C)
Davis, Rt Hon Terry
(B'ham Hodge H)
Dawson, Hilton
Dean, Mrs Janet
Dhanda, Parmjit
Dismore, Andrew
Dobbin, Jim
Donohoe, Brian H
Doran, Frank
Dowd, Jim
Drown, Ms Julia
Dunwoody, Mrs Gwyneth
Eagle, Maria (L'pool Garston)
Edwards, Huw
Efford, Clive
Ellman, Mrs Louise
Ennis, Jeff
Fisher, Mark
Fitzsimons, Mrs Lorna
Flint, Caroline
Foster, Rt Hon Derek
Foster, Michael (Worcester)
Foster, Michael Jabez (Hastings)
Foulkes, George
Francis, Dr Hywel
Galloway, George
Gapes, Mike
Gardiner, Barry
George, Rt Hon Bruce (Walsall S)
Gerrard, Neil
Gibson, Dr Ian
Gilroy, Linda
Godsiff, Roger
Goggins, Paul
Griffiths, Jane (Reading E)
Griffiths, Nigel (Edinburgh S)
Griffiths, Win (Bridgend)
Grogan, John
Hall, Mike (Weaver Vale)
Hall, Patrick (Bedford)
Hamilton, David (Midlothian)
Hanson, David
Harman, Rt Hon Ms Harriet
Harris, Tom (Glasgow Cathcart)
Healey, John
Henderson, Ivan (Harwich)
Hendrick, Mark
Hepburn, Stephen
Heppell, John
Hewitt, Rt Hon Ms Patricia
Heyes, David
Hill, Keith
Hinchliffe, David
Hood, Jimmy
Hoon, Rt Hon Geoffrey
Hope, Phil
Hopkins, Kelvin
Howarth, Rt Hon Alan (Newport E)
Howarth, George (Knowsley N)
Howells, Dr Kim
Hughes, Beverley (Stretford)
Hughes, Kevin (Doncaster N)
Humble, Mrs Joan
Hurst, Alan
Hutton, Rt Hon John
Iddon, Dr Brian
Illsley, Eric
Irranca–Davies, Huw
Jackson, Glenda (Hampstead)
Jackson, Helen (Hillsborough)
Jamieson, David
Jenkins, Brian
Jones, Helen (Warrington N)
Jones, Jon Owen (Cardiff C)
Jones, Kevan (N Durham)
Jones, Lynne (Selly Oak)
Jones, Martyn (Clwyd S)
Jowell, Rt Hon Tessa
Joyce, Eric
Kaufman, Rt Hon Gerald
Keeble, Ms Sally
Keen, Ann (Brentford & Isleworth)
Kidney, David
King, Andy (Rugby & Kenilworth)
King, Ms Oona (Bethnal Green)
Knight, Jim (S Dorset)
Kumar, Dr Ashok
Ladyman, Dr Stephen
Lammy, David
Lawrence, Mrs Jackie
Laxton, Bob
Lazarowicz, Mark
Lepper, David
Leslie, Christopher
Levitt, Tom
Lewis, Ivan (Bury S)
Lewis, Terry (Worsley)
Liddell, Rt Hon Mrs Helen
Linton, Martin
Love, Andrew
Lucas, Ian
Luke, Iain
McAvoy, Thomas
McCabe, Stephen
McCafferty, Chris
McDonagh, Siobhain
McDonnell, John
MacDougall, John
McFall, John
McGuire, Mrs Anne
McIsaac, Shona
McKechin, Ann
McKenna, Rosemary
McNulty, Tony
Mactaggart, Fiona
McWalter, Tony
McWilliam, John
Mahmood, Khalid
Mahon, Mrs Alice
Mallaber, Judy
Mandelson, Rt Hon Peter
Mann, John
Marris, Rob
Marsden, Gordon (Blackpool S)
Marshall, Jim (Leicester S)
Marshall–Andrews, Robert
Meacher, Rt Hon Michael
Merron, Gillian
Michael, Rt Hon Alun
Miliband, David
Miller, Andrew
Mitchell, Austin (Gt Grimsby)
Moffatt, Laura
Mole, Chris
Moonie, Dr Lewis
Moran, Margaret
Morgan, Julie
Morley, Elliot
Mudie, George
Mullin, Chris
Munn, Ms Meg
Murphy, Denis (Wansbeck)
Murphy, Jim (Eastwood)
Murphy, Rt Hon Paul (Torfaen)
Naysmith, Dr Doug
Norris, Dan
O'Brien, Bill (Normanton)
O'Neill, Martin
Osborne, Sandra (Ayr)
Pearson, Ian
Perham, Linda
Picking, Anne
Pickthall, Colin
Pike, Peter
Plaskitt, James
Pollard, Kerry
Pond, Chris
Pope, Greg
Pound, Stephen
Prentice, Ms Bridget (Lewisham E)
Prescott, Rt Hon John
Prosser, Gwyn
Purchase, Ken
Purnell, James
Quin, Rt Hon Joyce
Quinn, Lawrie
Rammell, Bill
Rapson, Syd
Reed, Andy (Loughborough)
Reid, Rt Hon Dr John (Hamilton N)
Robertson, John
(Glasgow Anniesland)
Roche, Mrs Barbara
Rooney, Terry
Ross, Ernie
Roy, Frank
Ruane, Chris
Ruddock, Joan
Russell, Ms Christine (Chester)
Salter, Martin
Sawford, Phil
Sedgemore, Brian
Shaw, Jonathan
Sheridan, Jim
Simon, Siôn
Simpson, Alan (Nottingham S)
Singh, Marsha
Skinner, Dennis
Smith, Angela (Basildon)
Smith, Jacqui (Redditch)
Smith, Llew (Blaenau Gwent)
Southworth, Helen
Squire, Rachel
Starkey, Dr Phyllis
Steinberg, Gerry
Stewart, David (Inverness E)
Stinchcombe, Paul
Stoate, Dr Howard
Strang, Rt Hon Dr Gavin
Sutcliffe, Gerry
Taylor, Rt Hon Ann (Dewsbury)
Taylor, David (NW Leics)
Thomas, Gareth (Clwyd W)
Thomas, Gareth R (Harrow W)
Todd, Mark
Touhig, Don
Trickett, Jon
Turner, Dennis (Wolverh'ton SE)
Turner, Dr Desmond (Kemptown)
Turner, Neil (Wigan)
Twigg, Derek (Halton)
Twigg, Stephen (Enfield)
Tynan, Bill
Walley, Ms Joan
Ward, Ms Claire
Wareing, Robert N
Watson, Tom
Watts, David
White, Brian
Whitehead, Dr Alan
Williams, Rt Hon Alan
(Swansea W)
Williams, Mrs Betty (Conwy)
Wills, Michael
Wood, Mike
Woodward, Shaun
Woolas, Phil
Wray, James
Wright, Anthony D (Gt Yarmouth)
Wright, David (Telford)
Wright, Tony (Cannock)
Wyatt, Derek

Tellers for the Noes:

Mr. Fraser Kemp and
Mr. Graham Stringer.

Question accordingly negatived.

6 Mar 2002 : Column 339

Mrs. Jacqui Lait (Beckenham): On a point of order, Mr. Deputy Speaker. I am most grateful to you for allowing me to interrupt the proceedings. I would like to ask you whether the Secretary of State for Health has asked your permission to make a statement to the House about the decision by Greenwich hospital to take out an injunction preventing my local paper from publicising a health risk to patients. Could you also tell me whether the hospital would require the permission of the Secretary of State to issue such an injunction?

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