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Baroness Darcy de Knayth: I would like to support the noble Lord. It is very important that we get the drafting right now. He will remember that, about 10 years ago, there was a Bill that removed people from committees if they had a physical or mental disability. The provision crept into every Bill. We spent years and years on it before we removed it in the end. I strongly support our getting the drafting clear now.

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4.45 p.m.

Lord Addington: I tabled Amendment No. 270A, which refers to,

    "persons of different age groups".

When we are dealing with something such as the communications industry we should probably address age discrimination. The amendment was inspired by a letter sent to me via a colleague in another place, which suggested that someone retraining in the industry—it is an expanding industry, and if one is retraining one is by definition a littler older—felt that he was experiencing tremendous age discrimination. That was made all the more pertinent when I realised that he was only five years older than me.

We really have to encourage the removal of age discrimination and ensure that it is taken seriously. I tabled the amendment, which is a probing amendment, to ask whether age discrimination is appropriate and whether action can be taken. The more substantive amendment to which I added my name is that spoken to by the noble Lord, Lord Carter.

Like the noble Lord, I feel that "equality of opportunity" is understood. It is not subjective. "Fair treatment" will depend on where one is standing. In the past, it has led to some beneficial tokenism, but ultimately that will not serve as a legal test for someone with a disability who is having problems. "Equality of opportunity" is solid. It means the concept of reasonableness in the Disability Discrimination Act. It is something for which we are striving. I suggest that it must be included in the Bill, unless the Minister can give us a better legal definition of what being fairly treated means. If it is as subjective as it sounds, I suggest that it is far more trouble than it is worth and will ultimately have a negative impact.

Baroness Howe of Idlicote: I shall speak very briefly on Amendment No. 271A, as I have been asked to do by the noble Lord, Lord Crickhowell. It is a probing amendment, but before we get into that, I want to support wholeheartedly every single point that Members of the Committee have made previously, without repeating them. "Fair treatment" is not the same as "equal opportunity". We know what "equal opportunity" means; we recognise it, very much as we recognise "public service broadcasting". I shall put that on one side.

Amendment No. 271A is a probing amendment. Its purpose is to ask the Minister to clarify a possible loophole in Clause 330, which aims to implement the Government's plan to make training and equal opportunities part of tier 1 regulation. Under subsections (5) to (7), the requirements apply to only television and radio licensees which employ more than 20 people. It is thought possible, therefore, that television and radio services in group ownership will not be caught by the requirement, as it is perfectly possible for most staff to be employed at group level rather than by the individual licensees.

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I should be most grateful if the Minister would address those concerns and clarify the situation as regards those licensees employing fewer than 20 people.

Lord Puttnam: I tabled Amendments Nos. 85 and 86, and I want to speak specifically to Amendment No. 86. I should start by declaring an interest as patron of Skillset, the industry's training organisation. Amendment No. 86 is interesting, and I am more delighted than I can easily say to have the support of the noble Baroness, Lady Buscombe.

The noble Lord, Lord Baker of Dorking, was recently in his place, and it is worth mentioning that in 1985, when the industry was really on its uppers and he as a DTI Minister had extremely limited resources to help, he did a marvellous job in getting it to address its skills deficit. He did so by supporting the National Film and Television School and by a number of other very imaginative means. It is fair to say that the industry has been seriously skills-based ever since.

The industry has managed, quite tortuously, to create what one might term an all-industry agreement on training, based on a voluntary levy. However, we live in the real world, and there are a number of backsliders, professional evaders and non-payers, which has bedevilled the industry. The industry training organisation puts an extraordinary amount of time, effort and energy into tracking down and attempting to get the most reluctant of those people to pay. The provision merely seeks to give some statutory power to Ofcom to deal with those who will not pay those sums of money which the industry as a whole has identified as being necessary to keep its skills base adequate. This is a timely amendment.

Moreover, the amendment gives the Government a marvellous opportunity to put some flesh on the aspiration that is enunciated constantly by the Chancellor to do something about the skills deficit and the fact that employers must play their part. Here is a marvellous opportunity for the Government to say, "We support the industry. It has got its act together by creating its own voluntary levy. We will make as sure as we can that those within the industry who try to take advantage of the skills base but who do not pay for it are penalised".

Lord Thomson of Monifieth: I support the amendments spoken to by the noble Lord, Lord Gordon, and the noble Baroness, Lady Buscombe. I wish to speak in particular to speak to Amendments Nos. 85 and 86, as the noble Lord, Lord Puttnam, has just done.

Clause 24 deals with two aspects of employment policy—the conventional issue of training and the question of positive action to prevent discrimination. Amendment No. 85 proposes to remove those parts of the clause that would take steps to promote equality of treatment at work, confine them to existing law and follow the advice given by the Delegated Powers and Regulatory Reform Committee which said that it

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could see no good reason for looking towards an uncertain future in this regard and that the issue should be dealt with when the time comes.

I strongly support the comments of the noble Lord, Lord Puttnam, on training within the broadcasting industry. He spoke with particular authority about the film industry. The history of training in the broadcasting industry is long and rather unhappy. The BBC has a long and honourable record in that field. I declared an interest at the start of the Committee stage; I have a daughter who is now a senior manager with the BBC. After leaving university, she did a postgraduate training course with the BBC, which was totally admirable. That is part of the great training tradition in the BBC.

I am sad to say that in commercial television there was no comparable record, despite the fact that ITV companies had training provisions in their contracts. The degree to which we were able to keep them up to it was inadequate. In a world in which technology is changing so fast, it is very important that there should be adequate training. The proposed new clause is a back-up clause and would provide the means for ensuring that that occurs. It is an important matter. It is inappropriate that in the training field some organisations play a full part and others simply poach. The BBC and Channel 4 have good records but one wants adequate arrangements to ensure that everyone accepts their responsibilities.

Lord Lea of Crondall: I support my noble friend Lord Puttnam, who spoke to Amendment No. 86. We had a meeting with seven trade unions operating in the industry in the broad sense. This is one of the prominent issues about which they are very concerned. I include the question of telecommunications within the industry not only because it is part of the industry but also because the challenges in terms of "up-skilling" in telecommunications are integral to the progress of the whole industry.

The noble Lord, Lord Thomson, referred to the role of the BBC in particular. It has always struck me that years ago the tradition in the industry was that the BBC did the training and everyone else fed on it. In the same way, I remember going to Devonport dockyard. It was said that all those in Devon and Cornwall who had a small engineering business had been trained in Devonport dockyard. My noble friend Lord Puttnam described a more sophisticated body, which has a voluntary levy. There is much worry about the dilution of those commitments. The principle of public service obligations is rather different from the principle of competition. I refer to the practice of "Last person out switch off the lights" and so on. That is the central concern. Public responsibility must be written into the Bill more explicitly; the Bill is currently much too vague. That is why something along the lines of the amendment of my noble friend Lord Puttnam is essential for the whole of the sector.

BECTU, a big broadcasting union which plays a central role, points out that even those in the United States, and United States producers in Britain, support a compulsory training levy because it facilitates—let us

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spell it out—a level playing field. That is another way of talking about poaching, as mentioned by the noble Lord, Lord Thomson.

We should remind ourselves of the big range of skills and occupational training that goes into what we call broadcasting. I remind noble Lords that broadcasters are journalists. In general, the first person one hears when one switches on the radio is a journalist. I draw attention to the Writers' Guild of Great Britain. Its members write soap operas, among other things. That is a complex and skilled area of the industry. I refer also to the Musicians' Union; we shall return to the role of music later in the Bill. I have mentioned the communication workers. We also have Equity. Drama is a mainstay of broadcasting but it is expensive to produce. I could go on through that list.

I conclude by mentioning the interpenetration of this issue with that of regional employment and regional content. I hope that the Government will seriously consider this proposal and the central principle of the compulsory levy, which is, I believe, part of Amendment No. 86.

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