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Lord Thomson of Monifieth: My Lords, before the Minister replies, I should like to ask a question about the amendments moved by the noble Baroness. I hope the Minister can reassure me that I have misunderstood the substance of these amendments. They seem to lay on the content board some obligation to review the content of broadcast television

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programmes as to whether or not they may be critical or affect the competitiveness of various companies. It is important to have a careful separation between the role of the content board in relation to the content and standards of programmes and the other economic responsibilities of Ofcom—the competitiveness of the telecommunications and broadcasting industry.

Lord Davies of Oldham: My Lords, not for the first time, I am grateful to the noble Lord for having introduced that note. I shall not reverse the order of the amendments. I shall bear it in mind when I come to Amendment No. 30. I agree with him that that is an important point.

Although I had a prior strike, I did not succeed in convincing my noble friend Lord Gordon of Strathblane. My noble friend Lady Blackstone has also written a clear letter to him on the position of the Government. I entirely respect his reservations. We are united in principle and divided on practice in this matter. My noble friend Lord Dubs deployed his case with his customary skill. He mentioned the fact that he had been obliged to sign a declaration of potential conflict of interest. That is entirely proper. The only point I would make to my noble friend is that it was not the Broadcasting Acts which required this, it was administrative action, exactly the parallel that we are seeking to establish for Ofcom with regard to this Bill.

Lord Dubs: My Lords, the declaration I had to sign with the Broadcasting Standards Commission, and others, was a tighter restriction than the one applied to Ofcom content board members.

Lord Davies of Oldham: My Lords, I am not sure that I can comment on that in detail. I was trying to establish the distinction in principle between that which is statutory and required under the Act and that which is administrative practice of the body established by the Act. I am just trying to meet his point on that.

With regard to the Ofcom code of conduct, it goes quite a long way in its detail and openness and further than present arrangements. I hear what my noble friend says but I do not believe that his amendment takes the position that we are seeking to establish for Ofcom a great deal further. I am grateful for what he said, but we do not believe that it should be in primary legislation. We believe it should be a question of administrative action. He will be aware that this debate will be read carefully by Ofcom, as all our debates are. I see in his place the chairman of Ofcom. He will have noted what my noble friend said about this important area.

Turning again to Amendments Nos. 28 and 29 moved by the noble Baroness, Lady Wilcox, I sought to establish the contours of the Government's differences on these matters. She pressed me further and I shall do my best to respond. As I indicated, in the Bill we seek to establish the duties of a single converged communications regulator. The duties, which we have elaborated and discussed at some length, apply to all Ofcom's work, including any contributions to that

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work by the content board. For example, as well as the need to review regulatory burdens—I mentioned this earlier—to undertake impact assessments and so forth, it needs to publish and meet promptness standards.

It is up to Ofcom to ensure that the content board has no impact on business competitiveness, which I think was the point that the noble Lord, Lord Thomson, was seeking to clarify—but in his intervention I think that he clarified it for me—and that there must be a clear distinction in such roles. How Ofcom manages this must be a matter for it and its relationship with the content board. But the principle adumbrated by the noble Lord, Lord Thomson—rather more effectively than I did in my attempt to rebut an amendment which still had not been moved when I spoke first—is exactly the position to which the Government subscribe. That is why we are hopeful that the noble Baroness will be prepared to withdraw her amendment.

On the amendment to which the noble Baroness, Lady Howe, spoke, the distinction that we seek to make is that the consumer panel is independent of Ofcom. Therefore, the content board is a part of Ofcom. The issues referred to by the noble Baroness would probably be included in the main Ofcom annual report. As she will recognise from earlier debates, Ofcom is under very strict requirements with regard to its annual report. It has also given every indication of its determination to be open and transparent in its transactions and the report will be full. Therefore, the content board operation would be contained in the annual report, whereas the consumer panel is independent of Ofcom and its work surveyed in a different manner. That is the nature of that distinction. On that basis, I ask noble Lords not to press their amendments.

Lord McNally: My Lords, before the Minister sits down, it would be churlish of me not to acknowledge that Amendment No. 23 was in response to an amendment that I moved in Committee. For that I am very grateful. However, I heard the noble Lord, Lord Gordon of Strathblane, say that not only would

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he withdraw his amendment, but he may not bring it back again. I shall use all my powers of persuasion to ask the noble Lord, Lord Gordon, to bring it back to save the Government from themselves. Leaving subsection (8) in is just plain daft.

Lord Davies of Oldham: My Lords, as ever I am grateful to the noble Lord and I have no doubt that the power of his persuasion will be so much greater than mine that we shall revisit this quarter. All I can promise is that we shall probably respond with the same degree of courteous but nevertheless robust argument that we sought to maintain this evening. However—

Lord McNally: My Lords, we may bring it back at a different time of day.

Lord Davies of Oldham: My Lords, my temper is even longer and my tolerance even greater at other times of the day than it is at a quarter past 10 in the evening. I have no doubt that I shall be as overjoyed to see the amendment back in its place thanks to the ministrations of the noble Lord, Lord McNally, and we shall debate that issue when we come to it. In the mean time, I ask the House to agree to Amendment No. 23.

On Question, amendment agreed to.

Lord McIntosh of Haringey moved Amendment No. 24:

    Page 12, line 6, leave out from beginning to second "to" in line 8.

On Question, amendment agreed to.

[Amendments Nos. 25 and 26 not moved.]

Clause 12 [Functions of the Content Board]:

[Amendments Nos. 27 to 30 not moved.]

Lord Evans of Temple Guiting: My Lords, I beg to move that consideration on Report be now adjourned.

Moved accordingly, and, on Question, Motion agreed to.

        House adjourned at fifteen minutes past ten o'clock.

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Official Report of the Grand Committee on the

Local Government Bill

(Seventh Day) Monday, 23rd June 2003.

The Committee met at a half past three of the clock. [The Deputy Chairman of Committees (Lord Brougham and Vaux) in the Chair.]

The Deputy Chairman of Committees (Lord Brougham and Vaux): If any noble Lords want to take off their jackets, please feel free to do so.

Lord Bassam of Brighton: Thank you very much.

The Deputy Chairman of Committees: I remind noble Lords that there is no voting, that we speak standing and that there are no Divisions at all. If there is a Division in the Chamber—I believe that there will be—the noble Lord who is speaking should please come to the end of his sentence or stop and start his sentence again later so that we can adjourn the Committee for 10 minutes.

Clause 101 [Exercise of powers by reference to authorities' performance categories]:

Baroness Hamwee moved Amendment No. 203ZA:

    Page 55, line 36, leave out paragraphs (e) and (f).

The noble Baroness said: In moving this amendment, I shall speak also to Amendments Nos. 204A and 204B.

Amendment No. 203ZA would amend Clause 101—not "Room 101"—which is about the exercise of powers by reference to authorities' performance categories. We have already made it clear in our proceedings that my noble friend and I—we speak, I believe, for the whole of our party—do not regard powers and performance categories as being joined at the hip. We believe that categorisation, as distinct from assessment and review, is at best unhelpful.

Amendment No. 203ZA would leave out Clause 101(2)(e) and (f); in other words, it would remove power from the Secretary of State to have regard to the CPA category in authorising local authorities to undertake trading activities, as is set out in Clauses 96 to 98—that is the effect of paragraph (e). It would also retain fixed penalties for litter and dog fouling offences, which involves Clause 119, which is mentioned in paragraph (f).

I shall make a single point on each provision. To be able to trade and charge could give a real boost to a lacklustre authority. If it is proper for a local authority to be able to trade, it is proper for all local authorities to be able to trade. As regards Clause 119—the litter

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and dog fouling offences—do dogs in weak or poor authorities know that the authority in question cannot use the penalty income to provide bins or even wardens? The owners of the dogs might but the dogs do not. The powers should apply to all authorities.

Amendment No. 204A would leave out Clause 101(6)(a)(ii) and Amendment No. 204B would leave out Clause 101(6)(b). So if the Secretary of State uses his powers to amend primary legislation—I stress the reference to primary—he must do so for all local authorities, not just some and he must do the same as regards all descriptions of local authorities, such as unitary, county and district, not just some. I beg to move.

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