|Previous Section||Back to Table of Contents||Lords Hansard Home Page|
I am one of the many hundreds of beneficiaries of training schemes in the BBC. As the noble Lord, Lord Thomson, pointed out, it has a very good scheme indeed and it has continued in many ways. It is an example for all of us. I do not share the dismay of the noble Lord, Lord Thomson, about the ITV system. The company for which I work, Granada TelevisionI declared my interest at the start of this debateputs £9 million a year into training. Considering our income at the moment, that is not bad. That extends all over the regions as well as London. In my department of arts and features, we take on people and give them two or three years' proper, fully paid training; we do not make them run round for work experience, which is valuable for some weeks, or two or three months, but which cannot be extended. That effort is going on. We also support Skillset.
Ofcom will find it difficult to impose the policy on small channels and on independents, which form an increasingly powerful part of our industry. I hope that they will continue to do so in our country. That will be most difficult to impose and there will therefore be a return to the position in which the BBC is supposed to supply all the training, backed up by ITV and Channel 4. That, as the independent sector growsas it will and should dowill prove to be a very unfair burden.
In the spirit of being helpful, particularly to my noble friend Lord Puttnam, perhaps I may make a suggestion. It might seem to be pulled out of the air, but I truly believe it could be a radical solution to the problem, if I may in modesty say as much. ITV pays to the Government a completely unnecessary levy of £250 million a year, in addition to the tax it pays. I have talked on several occasions in this House about how that might have been useful about 20 years ago
If communications bound forward after the passing of this Billoften pointed out so eloquently by the noble Lord, Lord McNally, as an important Bill indeedthere will be a need for skilled young people. Skills continually change and increase. It is increasingly difficult for those who begin in the independent sectorand more of them doto find the time to obtain the training they need; that is, just getting on with it for months or even two or three years.
That amount of money directed to that end, and coming out of the levy given unnecessarily, used for the industry instead of the general mores of the Government might be a consideration which could have a radical effectI am not afraid to repeat thaton the young people of this country coming into the communications industry. They often come in blind with nothing like the support they deserve and need if we are to run as an efficient industry as we would like.
Lord Lipsey: As we have more and more channels, we will have more and more broadcasters trying to buy more and more cheap programmes from more and more independent companies. Small independents, inevitably given the pressures on them, will be tempted to renege on or minimise their training obligations. If we are to maintain the training levels, we must have something along the lines of the back-up powers in Amendment No. 86 proposed by my noble friend Lord Puttnam. It is as simple as that.
Lord Avebury: I want to ask the Minister a simple question relating to Amendment No. 270B in the names of the noble Lord, Lord Carter, and my noble friend Lord Addington concerning disabled people. I notice that coming down the track are the Disability Discrimination Act 1995 (Amendment) Regulations 2003, which amend and extend the DDA in so far as it prohibits discrimination against disabled people in relation to employment and vocational training. The Explanatory Notes on that mention other instruments accompanying that which deal with discrimination on grounds of religion or belief, sexual orientation and age. Those arise from a European directive on discrimination in employment, to which we are a party. I want to be satisfied that that directive and the instruments which flow from it are fully reflected in the wording of this Bill.
Baroness Jay of Paddington: I, too, support the suggestion of my noble friend Lord Carter to reinstate the words in the draft Bill in order to accommodate some of these points. However, I want to return to some of the points raised by my noble friends
I, too, want to make the point that the provisions include not only training in broadcasting or in journalism, but, taking the other points made most notably by my noble friend Lord Lea, a broad spectrum of skills. They include those people working in telecommunications, which is an area different from, for example, journalism and some of the other professions or trades mentioned. One must not ignore the fact that one of the virtues of Ofcom's broad responsibility is that it has a wide scope to cover all the industries mentioned within its remit, which includes skills more technical than those in which my noble friend Lord Bragg and I were trained.
I of course sympathise with the aim behind Amendments Nos. 82, 83 and 84, but the fact is that Ofcom cannot be given any power, under the regulatory regime permitted by the EC communications directives, to impose any obligations in this area on communications providers. The Television Without Frontiers Directive, on the other hand, does permit stricter obligations to be imposed on broadcasters.
The EC communications directives limit the types of obligations which can be imposed on providers of electronic communications networks and services. The subject matter of the general conditions, which can be applied to any communications provider, is set out in Clause 48. In very broad terms, such conditions can cover issues such as consumer protection, service interoperability and network access, availability of services in the event of a disaster, protection of health and compliance with international standards.
The limitation on the subject matter of general conditions is necessary in order to implement Part A of the annex to the authorisation directive. This annex sets out the maximum list of conditions which may be attached to general authorisations and does not permit the imposition of any kind of condition in relation to training and equality of opportunity. Therefore, member states have no discretion to add other kinds of conditions to the regulatory regime permitted by the directives.
I turn to Amendments Nos. 85, 271 and 270A. Recommendation 19 of the Joint Committee on the draft Communications Bill raised the same issue as that raised in Amendments Nos. 85 and 271; that is, the need for the Secretary of State's power to add by order other forms of equality to Clauses 24 and 330. As the government response to the committee indicated, this order-making power is important to these clauses as it will ensure that the obligations on Ofcom and the licence holders to which Clause 330 applies remain up-to-date alongside broader anti-discrimination legislation. Perhaps I may say to the noble Baroness, Lady Buscombe, that there is no intention to extend discrimination law by the back door.
In Clause 24, Ofcom is given a duty to promote equality of opportunity between men and women and between persons of different racial groups in relation to employment with broadcasters. Similarly, in Clause 330 Ofcom has an obligation to include in the licence for every service to which this clause applies conditions requiring the licence holder to promote, in relation to employment with it, equality of opportunity between men and women and between persons of different racial groups.
The list contained in Clause 24(4) and in Clause 330(1) mirrors two of the most important areas of anti-discrimination legislation. The noble Lord, Lord Addington, will perhaps be pleased to hear that we believe that it is right that, should new forms of general legislation be introducedsuch as, in relation to age discriminationthe Secretary of State should have the ability to reflect the general equal opportunity legislation within Ofcom's obligations under Clause 24 and broadcasters' licence conditions. We do not think it would be right to anticipate such legislation in the Bill, as the purposes of Clauses 24 and 330 are to supplement existing anti-discrimination legislation. But we do believe that it is appropriate that the Secretary of State should have a power to amend the scope of these clauses to mirror developments in anti-discrimination legislation when they occur.
The Joint Committee's recommendation on these order-making powers was that, if retained, they should be subject to affirmative resolution procedure. We strongly believe that these powers should be retained. However, in view of the concern expressed by the Committee and by the Select Committee on Delegated Powers and Regulatory Reform, we agreed that they should be made subject to the affirmative resolution procedure. Therefore, there will always be an opportunity to debate them in the Chamber.
The purpose of Amendment No. 270B, tabled by my noble friend Lord Carter, is, presumably, to strengthen protection for disabled people. However, I believe that the effect could prove to be the opposite. The Disability Discrimination Act makes certain
We have sought to mirror that approach in the Bill in the requirement to promote the fair treatment of disabled people. But amending the Bill to create obligations relating to equality of opportunity for disabled people would imply reciprocal equality of opportunity for able-bodied people, even if able-bodied people are not mentioned, because the amendment otherwise begs the question: equality of opportunity with whom? The amendment could therefore conflict with other efforts to assist disabled people; for example, an obligation relating to equality between able-bodied and disabled people could conflict with efforts to help disabled people through the provision of, say, "sheltered jobs".