Clause 6 - Interpretation

Office of Communications Bill [Lords] – in a Public Bill Committee at 5:00 pm on 5th February 2002.

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Question proposed, That the clause stand part of the Bill.

Photo of Anne McIntosh Anne McIntosh Shadow Spokesperson (Culture, Media and Sport)

I do not intend to detain the Committee for long, although there is one item that I shall wish to return to at the earliest opportunity.

In responding to the previous clause stand part debate, the Minister said that the DTI currently acted as a regulator, so it is curious that it is not mentioned in the Bill. We all know what the DTI is, but it would have been appropriate to define its role for the benefit of laypersons like myself who do not have the great wealth of expertise of my hon. Friends and other

Members on both sides of the Committee. Will the Minister take this opportunity to rectify that?

I shall return to the other matter in the not too distant future.

Photo of Michael Fabricant Michael Fabricant Conservative, Lichfield

Clearly, the clause must be included in the Bill, but it is a sad clause, owing partly to its omissions and partly to its inclusions. As my hon. Friend said, it would have been clearer to include some definition of the functions of the DCMS and the DTI in relation to Ofcom, although it might not have been within the scope of the Bill to do so. The situation was even more disparate before 1997, when the Home Office was also involved. That is yet another argument for there being only one Government Department with responsibility for communications; a Government communications organisation.

It is a sad clause because there is no subsection 1(e) referring to the BBC. There should be, because the BBC board of governors is a regulator.

Photo of Roger Gale Roger Gale Vice-Chair, Conservative Party

Order. The BBC is not part of the Bill and we have had this debate about four times already.

Photo of Michael Fabricant Michael Fabricant Conservative, Lichfield

Another sad part of the clause is subsection (2)(b)(iii), which cites the Marine, &c., Broadcasting (Offences) Act 1967. That is sad for me because it made a dishonest man of me.

Photo of Angela Watkinson Angela Watkinson Conservative, Upminster

I rise briefly for a point of clarification. The list of existing regulators in clause 6(1) does not include the Radiocommunications Agency. My Library research paper says that there are five regulators, of which the Radiocommunications Agency is the fifth. Will the Minister elucidate?

Photo of Kim Howells Kim Howells Parliamentary Under-Secretary, Department for Culture, Media & Sport

I am advised that although the clause does not cover the Radiocommunications Agency, which is currently a manifestation of the Secretary of State, the agency is expected to co-operate with Ofcom in a similar way to that set out in the clause. I hope that the hon. Lady accepts that answer.

Photo of Angela Watkinson Angela Watkinson Conservative, Upminster

I am grateful to the Minister for his explanation.

Question put and agreed to.

Clause 6 ordered to stand part of the Bill.