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Contracting Out (Functions relating to Wireless Telegraphy) Order 1996

4.16 p.m.

Baroness Miller of Hendon rose to move, That the draft order laid before the House on 18th June be approved [25th Report from the Joint Committee].

12 Jul 1996 : Column 608

The noble Baroness said: My Lords, the order is designed to allow the Government to build on the existing arrangements for managing those parts of the radio spectrum used for programme making.

It is proposed that the order should be made under Section 69 of the Deregulation and Contracting Out Act 1994. The purpose of the order is to enable the Secretary of State to authorise another person, or that person's employees, to exercise his functions under Section 1 of the Wireless Telegraphy Act 1949 insofar as they relate to programme making.

The Wireless Telegraphy Act provides for the regulation of all use of radio in the United Kingdom. It forbids the installation or use of wireless telegraphy equipment unless an appropriate licence is obtained from the Secretary of State. The Radiocommunications Agency, which is an executive agency of the Department of Trade and Industry, is responsible for regulating the civil use of radio under the Act.

Since 1990 two companies, representing programme makers, have acted as the Secretary of State's agent in managing the spectrum used for programme making. Following a review that was completed earlier this year, the Radiocommunications Agency recommended that a single organisation should be established with responsibility for licensing all programme making spectrum. The President of the Board of Trade announced on 13th June in another place that he accepted this recommendation and intended to establish new licensing arrangements.

We intend to establish the new arrangements under a contract which will run from 1st April 1997. The contract will be let by competitive tender and expressions of interest are being sought. An authorisation under the order will allow the new contractor to exercise the Secretary of State's discretion in managing and licensing the spectrum. This will give the flexibility that is essential if the spectrum is to be managed effectively and efficiently. This will be to the benefit of all those working in the programme making sector. I commend the draft order to the House. I beg to move.

Moved, That the draft order laid before the House on 18th June be approved [25th Report from the Joint Committee].--(Baroness Miller of Hendon.)

Lord Graham of Edmonton: My Lords, from the packed Benches behind me and looking across at the packed Benches in front of me, it is a strange contrast to an event which took place at 5.30 last evening. But perhaps this event will be seen to be just as important in the future as that which was determined then.

The noble Baroness, with her usual clarity--and even more persuasiveness than she normally displays--has won me over and therefore we have no objection.

Baroness Miller of Hendon: My Lords, I thank the noble Lord. I commend the order to the House.

On Question, Motion agreed to.

        House adjourned at twenty minutes past four o'clock.


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