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Baroness Maddock: My Lords,--

Baroness Blackstone: My Lords, as this is Report stage, the noble Baroness may wish, before I sit down, to ask a question for elucidation. In that case I should be happy to answer it. Would she like to do it now?

Baroness Blatch: My Lords, we are dealing with a point of order. My understanding is that on a point of order the Red Book says that one can intervene for clarification. The noble Baroness has just refused to allow my noble friend Lord Butterfield to do just that on a point of clarification. Having given the promise that she would be accommodating on points of clarification, she has now accepted a question from a Member of the Liberal Benches.

Baroness Blackstone: My Lords, I was not aware that the noble Lord, Lord Butterfield, wished to ask a question on a point of clarification. I thought he was going to make a further point. He did not proceed to ask a question but, if he wishes, I am happy to accept a question, as I am from the noble Baroness, Lady Maddock. That is, if it is a point of clarification on what I have been saying.

Baroness Maddock: My Lords, I wish to clarify whether the Minister understood that what we are saying is that the provision concerns advice and teachers advising on what the standards should be and no more.

Baroness Blackstone: My Lords, if the point concerns advising, I am happy to take the wording away

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and ask for its re-examination, to see whether it can be drafted in such a way as to make it absolutely clear that it concerns advice. I shall then come back to it. I am happy now to give way to the noble Lord, Lord Butterfield.

Lord Butterfield: My Lords, I am grateful to the Minister. I merely wished to ask what was the difference between the Minister's amendment and my suggestion that the provision be worded: "to encourage the highest standards of professional conduct". That is perhaps a little less pejorative of the professional standards of the profession today.

Baroness Blackstone: My Lords, the government amendment makes it clear that that is what we want to do. I hope that the noble Lord, Lord Butterfield, will accept that that is what the Government have in mind.

The noble Baroness, Lady Young, and the noble Baroness, Lady Maddock, raised questions about teacher supply. I agree with them that that is a serious problem--both trying to recruit more men into primary schools and to make sure that more people come forward for headships. That is a particular problem in the primary sector and much less of a problem at the secondary level.

The Government are taking a number of actions to try to deal with the problem of boosting recruitment. The TTA has that very much at the forefront of its current work. As I mentioned in Committee, a number of advertisements have been shown in cinemas to which there has been quite a good response. But clearly we must monitor the position and continue to do more.

I believe that the very existence of a GTC which speaks for the profession will raise its status and the self-esteem of teachers which has been referred to. However, we must remember that the TTA also has the primary responsibility for teacher supply and I am very grateful to the noble Baroness, Lady Young, for what she said about the work of the current chairman, Professor Booth, because we all have the highest regard for what he is doing.

The noble Baroness, Lady Carnegy of Lour, asked about disabled people in Scotland and the Scottish GTC.

Baroness Carnegy of Lour: My Lords, I was not speaking about disabled people. I suggested that Amendment No. 12 might be very time consuming for teachers and therefore very expensive for local authorities and schools. I did not address the government amendments which I believe are excellent.

Baroness Darcy de Knayth: My Lords, I asked the question about whether the duty should be attached to have regard to the Scottish Teaching Council.

Baroness Blackstone: My Lords, I am most grateful for that. I have come to assume that any reference to Scotland comes from the noble Baroness, Lady Carnegy of Lour, who is so assiduous, and rightly so, in promoting the position of Scotland. I shall have to write to the noble Baroness, Lady Darcy, about that. There is

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a question as to whether that would be within the scope of this Bill, which is not about setting up a GTC for Scotland but about setting up a GTC for England and Wales.

I have tried to respond to all the issues that have been raised. I regret that I cannot support Amendment No. 12 as it would add a significant number of additional responsibilities which we do not see falling properly to the GTC at present. However, as I said earlier in the debate, I am prepared to consider further whether Clause 2 fully secures our intention that the GTC should be a major partner in the national drive to raise standards in schools, if that helps the noble Lord, Lord Butterfield.

As regards Amendment No. 14, I am pleased that your Lordships value the work done by the TTA and accept the importance of the TTA working in harmony to raise standards in the teaching profession. I am sure that all noble Lords in this House will agree that that is a very desirable objective. On that basis, I hope that the noble Baroness will not press her amendment.

On Question, amendment agreed to.

Baroness Blackstone moved Amendment No. 3:

Page 1, line 17, at end insert--
("( ) In exercising their functions, the Council shall have regard to the requirements of persons who are disabled persons for the purposes of the Disability Discrimination Act 1995.").

On Question, amendment agreed to.

Lord Whitty: My Lords, I beg to move that consideration on Report be now adjourned.

Moved accordingly and, on Question, Motion agreed to.

Competition Bill [H.L.]

6.15 p.m.

The Minister of State, Department of Trade and Industry (Lord Simon of Highbury): My Lords, I beg to move that the Bill be now further considered on Report.

Moved, That the Bill be further considered on Report.--(Lord Simon of Highbury.)

On Question, Motion agreed to.

Clause 48 [Appeals on point of law etc.]:

[Amendments Nos. 153 to 154E not moved.]

Schedule 8 [Appeals]:

[Amendments Nos. 155 to 158 not moved.]

Lord Fraser of Carmyllie moved Amendment No. 159:

Before Clause 49, insert the following new clause--

("Advisory body for the Director
Advisory body on functions of the Director

.--(1) The Secretary of State shall, prior to the coming into force of Chapters I to IV of this Part, establish an advisory body for

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functions exercised by the Director under this Part, and the body so established shall consist of such members as the Secretary of State may from time to time appoint.
(2) It shall be the duty of the advisory body established under this section to advise the Director on any matter--
(a) in respect of which the Director exercises functions under this Part; and
(b) which is referred to it by the Director or is a matter on which it considers it should offer its advice.
(3) The advisory body established under subsection (1) shall, as soon as practicable after the end of 1998, and in each subsequent calendar year, make a report to the Secretary of State on its activities during that year.").

The noble and learned Lord said: My Lords, important as this amendment is, it is more important that at long last we should reach our deliberations on this Bill. It does not seem to me that the conduct of the business in your Lordships' House this afternoon has been at its most edifying, particularly as this Competition Bill is extremely important. To reach it only at quarter past six does not indicate to the world outside, which is keen to see how we are to deal with competition, that we are taking the matter as seriously as it warrants.

Amendment No. 165 is grouped with this amendment. That seems to me to be extremely appropriate because, although both amendments are in my name and relate to advisory bodies, it would be a superfluity of advisory bodies to have them both established. The amendments are essentially alternatives.

Amendment No. 159 would require the Secretary of State to create an advisory body to provide advice on the exercise of functions under the Bill to the Director General of Fair Trading or to any regulator exercising those functions concurrently. Advice would be provided at the request of the director general or any regulator or on the advisory body's own initiative where it considered that it was appropriate to do so.

As I am sure that many noble Lords will appreciate, the sectoral statutes already provide for the Secretary of State to establish such bodies to advise regulators in respect of certain functions and enable regulators to establish advisory bodies in respect of other matters. I understand that the Director General of Telecommunications has already established such a body in relation to the application of licence conditions which are based upon Articles 85 and 86 of the treaty.

The proposal in Amendment No. 165 is that the Secretary of State would create an advisory body to provide advice to the sectoral regulators alone without going back to the director general, and to advise them on the exercise of their functions under the Bill. The advice would be provided on the request of the regulator or on the advisory body's own initiative where it considered it was appropriate to do so.

An example of the type of arrangement which is already in place is under Section 54 of the Telecommunications Act 1984 which authorises the establishment of an advisory body on matters affecting small business. I understand that such a body has already been established.

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Once those amendments appeared in my name, I received a letter from the Director General of Telecommunications who said:

    "While I believe it is important that regulators have access to independent advice on issues, I do not believe that formal provisions for such arrangements needs to be written into the Bill".

At the same time, I received a communication not just from the regulator but from those who are to be regulated.

A document from the Cable Communications Association states,

    "While the CCA believes it is important that regulators have access to independent advice of the highest quality, we do not believe that provision for formal arrangements needs to be written into the Bill ... Oftel already makes extensive use of advisors on legal and economic issues ... Introducing a formal advisory body would risk introducing unnecessary bureaucracy and delay into the decision making process"

of regulators. The association further states:

    "In our own experience Oftel already makes extensive use of advisors on legal and economic issues and we believe that the Director General of Telecommunications and other sectoral regulators should have the freedom to seek specialist advice as required on a case by case basis".

On one view it might seem a happy coincidence that the regulator and the regulated should agree, but such is the coincidence of language that if I were an examiner for an examinations board I might think that someone had seen someone else's paper.

The more important point is that if there is that coincidence of view it would appear to be unnecessary to explore the matter further if the approach that was proposed met with everyone's approval. I think it is clear that we should not believe that that is the only view that has been expressed by those who have an interest in these matters. I take a little time to explain this because the same point will arise in relation to a number of the groupings we are discussing this evening.

As I am sure the Minister will have seen, there is an article in today's Times by Mr. Thomas Sharpe QC, who is a specialist in United Kingdom and EU competition law and utility regulation. The Minister may not have read the article but I am sure he has seen his own beaming face smiling out from the pages of The Times today. It is worth recording that Mr. Sharpe, a distinguished Silk, states that this is a major Bill and it is a major achievement for the Government. He compliments the Government on introducing it into the Lords rather than the Commons, which reflects its technical nature and cross-party support.

However, what begins to emerge clearly from the article is that there are a number of risks as regards the way the Government are approaching this matter, particularly in relation to concurrency. The clear proposal is that the director general should have a continuing and important competition law function but that all the regulators should be similarly involved. While from time to time in the course of our deliberations we have dealt with one regulator or another, the fact of the matter is--as the article points out--that there will be no fewer than eight other

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regulators who from time to time may have to exercise competition law policy approaches. In our view there is a real risk, as Mr. Sharpe states, that,

    "As it stands, the Bill will lead to duplication of scarce resources among regulators; the certainty of inconsistency of treatment between regulators and difficulties over which regulator should have jurisdiction in any situation".

It is in that set of circumstances that we believe it to be desirable that there should be one advisory board that offers advice both to the director general and the sectoral regulators, or to the sectoral regulators alone. As I indicated, it is my understanding--I am open to correction--that Oftel has already established such an advisory board to give specific advice on the issue of conditions in licences where there is an Article 85 or 86 point. There would be a real risk of inconsistency. Each and every one of those regulators who sought to impose conditions within licences--all those which had an Article 85 or 86 point--and each different advisory committee could potentially come up with a different variation. That seems to me to be undesirable. It would lead to a great deal of uncertainty and duplication. The simplest and best way forward to eliminate the inconsistency I have mentioned would be through the establishment of an advisory body.

As I say, this proposal is not wildly out of line with the scheme of things as they are at the present time. It is my understanding that in most, if not all, of the sectoral statutes such a power already exists. But if there is to be this more distinctive, clearer, concurrent competition law responsibility in those circumstances, particularly where multi-utilities will operate--if we do not have them already--it is desirable that there should be some arrangement for a single body. We have proposed alternatives. I hope that the Government will consider that one of them is a desirable way to proceed. I beg to move.

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