Digital Economy Bill - Committee (4th Day)

Part of the debate – in the House of Lords at 5:30 pm on 8th February 2017.

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Photo of Lord Best Lord Best Chair, Communications Committee 5:30 pm, 8th February 2017

My Lords, I am extremely grateful to all noble Lords who have spoken, all of whom spoke in support of a change. I get the very strong impression that the Ofcom route, which is the one proposed in my amendment, would not find so much favour with your Lordships as the creation of a separate new licence fee commission. The independence of that body would be assured. I can see that some regulators do take an interest in the fees and charges made by the bodies that they regulate—it would not be entirely unheard of for Ofcom to have a view. However, I take the point that Ofcom is fully stretched with the duties that it already has. On balance, although everyone who spoke accepts that the current arrangements have been entirely unsatisfactory and that change is needed, the idea of a new body—which does not always find favour—might be the preferable route.

In response to the Minister, there is absolute agreement that the Secretary of State must take the final decision—that is not under dispute. It also should be clear that this should not be confused with the statutory underpinning of the royal charter, which we debated earlier. This is a one-off, separate issue relating to the licence fee. I am glad the Minister accepts that independent advice might be required. However, I think it is possible to bind future Governments, in the sense that putting a process in the Bill would ensure that the transparency that everyone seeks comes to pass and that proper public consultation and parliamentary scrutiny whenever the licence fee is reviewed, which will be five years from now, happens. It might be useful to come back to this later. For the moment, I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment 220 withdrawn.

Amendments 221 to 222D not moved.