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Lord McIntosh of Haringey: We have built many measures into the Bill to ensure that Ofcom will not only be a good regulator but also a promoter of self-regulation. Clause 6 is an example of that, as it is about the obligation on Ofcom to review any regulatory burdens.

I shall begin with Amendment No. 31, which requires Ofcom to seek the views of business on which of its functions should be reviewed. It is important for Ofcom to have a strong dialogue with business, but it should be wider than that proposed in this amendment. Clause 6(2), which Amendment No. 31 would amend, is not about which functions Ofcom should keep under review—indeed, subsection (l) requires it to keep all of its functions under review so that it does not impose unnecessary burdens.

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We do not expect that Ofcom will be able to fulfil its duties under subsection (1) without input from a wide range of stakeholders. Clearly, that will also involve business. However, the interests of business are not necessarily the same as those of other people to whom Ofcom will be talking. What appears to business as a burden might be a necessary protection for other people. Therefore, singling out business in the way suggested is not necessarily the right course of action. The amendment requires Ofcom to take the views of business, but not those of other interested parties.

The Bill puts in place formal consultation, impact assessments, and, under Clause 6(4), publication of a statement setting out how Ofcom proposes to secure that regulation does not involve imposition or maintenance of unnecessary burdens. I believe that to be more practical than the restricted obligation on Ofcom contained in Amendment No. 31. It will allow Ofcom to decide how it will comply with the duty.

Ofcom can use what we expect to be both formal and informal systems to build a clear view of what business and other people have in mind, not only in respect of regulatory burdens—the subject of Clause 6—but also other issues. We expect Ofcom to be listening to business right across the range of its activities, without the need for Amendment No. 31.

I turn to Amendments Nos. 32 and 33. I assure the noble Lord, Lord Puttnam, straightaway that the Government are not in any way reluctant about self-regulation. We specifically provide for self-regulation in respect of premium rate communications services, in codes of practice for dealing with customer complaints, and in the public service broadcasting provisions. Indeed, self-regulation is referred to specifically in Clause 3(3)(c) and, as I said, in Clause 6.

Amendments Nos. 32 and 33 relate to references to self-regulation in Clause 6. As the noble Lord, Lord Puttnam, will recognise, those references were inserted in the Bill in response to the recommendations of the Joint Committee. So both he and the Government can take credit for their inclusion.

We considered different models for self-regulation and decided not to mandate processes or codes, or, as suggested by Amendment No. 33, to lay down in statute the factors that Ofcom should consider—other than the question of whether there is sufficient independence and adequate funding. Of course, Ofcom will be able to consider other matters as well as assessing the effectiveness, or possible future effectiveness, of self-regulation.

We decided against accreditation—or what has been called "accredited self-regulation"—not because we believe, as suggested by the noble Lord, Lord McNally, that somehow this is a matter of going down the slippery slope to state control, which was not in our mind. We took that decision because accreditation is associated with defined standards. I should be interested to hear arguments on the other side, but we find it difficult to envisage a single standard that would apply to all the situations in which self-regulation could be used. The duties and considerations that are placed on Ofcom by the Bill provide a more practical and flexible framework.

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We are not so much laying down the process of self-regulation—the aim of Amendment No. 33—we are looking at the outcomes. I think that this is what my noble friend Lord Currie called "co-regulation"; in other words, it is an option for Ofcom.

The point to make here is that there are varying degrees of self-regulation or co-regulation. It will be for Ofcom to balance the degree of accountability, reporting, involvement and how hands-on it will be against the extent to which it will be able to remove or reduce regulatory burdens. However, while I have a great deal of sympathy for what has been said by my noble friend Lord Puttnam and the noble Lord, Lord McNally—as they both pointed out, we are on the same side on this issue—I think that it would be a mistake to lay down strict guidelines or objectives for Ofcom.

In itself, the amendment would not make self-regulation any easier. Indeed, there is a danger that it might add to the bureaucratic burden. Where there is self-regulation or co-regulation, it will be only where Ofcom has powers. I listened carefully to what was said about the Advertising Standards Authority and, while I agree with much of it, I rather suspect that praise for that authority is a surrogate for criticism of the Press Complaints Commission, which was not mentioned. Indeed, the innocent look on the face of the noble Lord, Lord McNally, confirms me in that view. We have repeatedly made it clear that Ofcom will not regulate the Press Complaints Commission, so I do not see how it could accredit that organisation.

For these reasons, which are entirely sympathetic to the purposes behind the regulations, but which seek to explain the thoroughness with which the Bill addresses these issues, I hope that the amendment will not be pressed.

Lord Luke: I am grateful to the Minister for that explanation. Although he spoke mainly to Amendment No. 33, which I shall not mention, it appears that everyone is keen on self-regulation in one form or another. No doubt we shall return to the matter at a later stage of the Bill. In the meantime, I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

[Amendment No. 32 not moved.]

Clause 6 agreed to.

Lord McNally moved Amendment No. 33:


    After Clause 6, insert the following new clause—


"ADDITIONAL DUTIES IN RELATION TO EFFECTIVE SELF-REGULATION
(1) In considering for the purposes of section 6(2)(a) the extent to which matters which OFCOM are required under section 3 to further or secure are already furthered or secured, or are likely to be furthered or secured, by effective self-regulation, OFCOM shall have regard to the guidance prepared under subsection (2).
(2) It shall be the duty of OFCOM to prepare, and from time to time review and revise, such guidance on standards for effective self-regulation as appear to them best calculated to promote effective self-regulation and the self-regulation standards objectives.

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(3) The self-regulation standards objectives are—
(a) that the method of self-regulation offers protection or other benefits for members of the public in respect of a particular service beyond or in addition to those offered by the general law;
(b) that a proper degree of responsibility is accepted and exercised by all participants in the method of self-regulation;
(c) that the participants in the method of self-regulation, so far as practicable, include all providers of the relevant service in the United Kingdom;
(d) that the person or body responsible for monitoring and enforcement of the method of self-regulation has an appropriate measure of independence from providers of the relevant service;
(e) that adequate funding is available to the person or body undertaking functions in accordance with paragraph (d); and
(f) that the operations of the person or body undertaking functions in accordance with paragraph (d) are transparent and accountable.
(4) OFCOM shall make such arrangements as they consider appropriate for the accreditation of methods of self-regulation complying with the standards set out in guidance prepared in accordance with subsection (2).
(5) The Secretary of State may lay before Parliament an annual report giving an account of activities under a method of self-regulation that has been accredited in accordance with subsection (4)."

The noble Lord said: The noble Lord, Lord Borrie, was quite right to point out that it is the Advertising Association which is in negotiation with Ofcom about extending the ASA system to broadcast advertising. I also take the point made by my colleague, the noble Lord, Lord Puttnam, about the words "monitoring and" in subsection (3)(d).

I mentioned the Press Complaints Commission only to praise the speech made earlier today by its new chairman, Sir Christopher Meyer. However, a challenge I find almost impossible to resist, but which I had not thought of at the time, was that made by the noble Lord, Lord McIntosh, when he said that it was not possible to apply accredited self-regulation to the Press Complaints Commission. I beg to move.

Lord McIntosh of Haringey: I did not say that; I said that accredited self-regulation required a degree of defined standards. However, the noble Lord, Lord McNally, is perfectly free to draw that conclusion if he so wishes.

Lord McNally: That is what I am doing. Bearing that in mind, we may come back to this matter on Report. I am most grateful to the Minister for making the suggestion. I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Clause 7 [Duty to carry out impact assessments]:


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