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The noble Lord said: The whole purpose of the Bill is to bring together the regulation of broadcasting, telecommunications and some ancillary activities. It therefore seems strange to make provision in Clause 24(1) for training for broadcasting but say nothing about telecommunications. My amendment seeks to remedy that omission by the simple insertion of the word "telecommunications". Other amendments in the group are more specific with regard to other matters. I am not worried about that. I invite the Government either to accept the amendment or, if they feel that it is not sufficiently all- encompassing, to introduce their own amendment which is. I beg to move.
Baroness Buscombe: I wish to speak to Amendments Nos. 83 and 84, which stand in my name. I wish to speak also in support of Amendments Nos. 85 and 86. My amendments are very similar to that of the noble Lord, Lord Gordon of Strathblane, except that they seek to insert the words "telecommunications, internet". We consider that that term is all the more encompassing in terms of what the Bill should cover.
We all recognise the importance of the development of opportunities for training and retraining, particularly for employment in an industry as fast moving as broadcasting. I feel, however, that training and retraining in telecommunications skills and the
There is another purpose behind the amendments, however. How will Ofcom decide what form of training is appropriate in such a diverse industry? Will the Minister explain how Ofcom will be in a position to decide what constitutes an appropriate level of training at any one time? Training strategies can be very specific to individual companies depending on the level and type of activity being undertaken and will depend to a large extent on a range of detailed factors which may be known only to the company concerned.
There are now literally hundreds of channels in the broadcasting sector, including many specialised services dedicated to music, sport, ethnic minorities and so on, and new forms of broadcasting, including pay-per-view and interactive offerings. Is it the expectation that Ofcom will know best how to allocate the resources of the relevant companies for their training needs and for the training needs of other very different players in the industry? Would Ofcom be empowered to dictate the training budget of, say, the shopping channel, QVC, or the documentary broadcaster, Discovery, or to transfer resources from one to another, for example, to fund training for other broadcasters' news or drama productions? We would appreciate some clarification from the Minister on that.
I turn to Amendment No. 85, in the names of the noble Lords, Lord Puttnam, Lord McNally, Lord Crickhowell and Lord Hussey. We understand that the clause requires Ofcom, inter alia, to take all such steps as it considers appropriate for promoting equality of opportunity in relation to employment by those providing television and radio services and the training and retraining of persons for such employment. This reference to equality of opportunity refers to equality of opportunity between men and women and between persons of different racial groups. Subsections (6) and (7) would give the Secretary of State power to add any other form of equality of opportunity which he considers appropriate by affirmative resolution.
I have read the memorandum of the House of Lords Select Committee on Delegated Powers and Regulatory Reform, to be found in annex 6 of the report of the Joint Committee on the draft communications Bill which records that the department says that the power to extend the clause to other forms of equality is intended to allow the clause to be brought into line with general equality law if it should be extended in the future; for example, to age or religious discrimination. The House of Lords Select Committee found that explanation unconvincing, as do we on this side of the Committee.
At present, primary legislation would be required to extend equality law in the future. That legislation would and should have a clause making consequential amendments to previous Acts and one of those amendments would be an amendment to this clause
I cannot envisage any problem with that course. The explanation given by the department is, we believe, wholly unconvincing. I ask myself why. I have always been impressed by the ability of the civil servants in the department. I have no doubt that they will agree with me that the explanation is unconvincing. I am drawn to the inescapable conclusion that there is another agenda here. We should like to know whether the Secretary of State has plans to extend general equality law by resolutions of both Houses rather than by primary legislation. Those are specific points which we should like the Minister to answer. In particular, what are the Government's intentions with regard to extending general equality law?
I turn to Amendment No. 86. I support the amendment in the name of the noble Lord, Lord Puttnam, in relation to backstop powers in respect of training. I refer specifically to support for the proposed new clause by Channel 4 which says that it welcomes,
There is strong support for the proposed new clause. Channel 4 says that in its view it enhances rather than constrains commercial as well as creative effectiveness. In an industry so completely dependent on talent for its long-term success the surest way to make Britain's communications industry the most dynamic and competitive in the worldthe ambition expressed by the two sponsoring Secretaries of State in their joint introduction to the policy paper accompanying the draft Billis to give real teeth to training obligations. At present a minority of broadcasters, one of them being Channel 4, bear a hugely disproportionate share of the training costs for the whole industry.
Lord Carter: I tabled an amendment in the group. Amendment No. 270B deals with equal opportunities and the point raised by the noble Baroness, Lady Buscombe. Clause 330(1) deals with equality of opportunity between "men and women" and,
That seemed to deal with the problem, but I then looked at the earlier draft Bill. Here the mystery rather deepens. Clause 224(1) of the draft Bill has the same preamble as the present Bill, but it has four paragraphs. Paragraphs (a) and (b) deal with men and women and persons of different racial groups, as in the present Bill, but paragraphs (c) and (d) have disappeared from the present draft. Paragraph (c) reads,
There is an argument that "fair treatment" allows for positive discrimination. That may be so; one would wish to take advice on it. "Fair treatment" seems fairly subjective, whereas we all know what "equality of opportunity" means. It occurred to me to look at the draft Bill only yesterday, so I tabled an amendment this morning that is not on the Marshalled List. It will probably be reached next Thursday, not this afternoon, but it would restore to Clause 330(1) the words in the draft Bill.
The Minister has an easy solution that would save the time of the Committee. We could restore "equality of opportunity" for disabled people in subsection (1) and leave subsection (2) with "fair treatment". That was exactly the wording in the draft Bill, and would mean that disabled people would have both equality of opportunity and, if necessary, the positive discrimination used in the arguments about fair treatment.
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