Previous Section Back to Table of Contents Lords Hansard Home Page

Baroness O'Cathain: My Lords, before the Minister sits down, perhaps I may make a correction. I referred to Leadership 2000. I meant Opportunity 2000. I apologise.

9.15 p.m.

Baroness Dean of Thornton-le-Fylde: My Lords, I thank the noble Lords who have joined in the debate. I assure the Minister that he should not feel too lonely when he is the only one of his sex who has spoken. It happens to women all the time.

In responding, I declare that I am a member of the target team of Opportunity 2000 and have been since it was formed. The BBC is a member of Opportunity 2000 and has been since it was formed.

I do not believe in quotas; I never have. I think that they turn people off. They do not encourage people to make equal opportunities happen. Quotas were the subject of one of Opportunity 2000's earlier debates. Targets are better. It is far better to have targets set individually within the company. The Bill does not provide for targets. It is woolly and vague, as is the 1990 Act.

5 Mar 1996 : Column 246

Opportunity 2000 also requires that companies who are members monitor their progress annually, publish their progress in their annual report and have internal reviews and discussions on it. That is what a code of practice would do. However, the Bill and the 1990 Act do not provide for that.

As regards the code referred to in the amendment, I would expect the ITC to consult industry on that code. It would not simply draw up the code and impose it on industry.

The Minister believed that it was wrong for a regulatory body to interfere in the internal management of companies. What then does the clause in the Bill require, if that is the view of Government? I am strengthening a clause already in the Bill which requires the licence holder to make arrangements for promoting.

I am not sure whether the Minister was given briefing on this issue, but the ITC already publishes figures with regard to women in this industry. It must obtain them from individual companies. So we do not seek to impose more on companies but to attain a better structure and ensure that progress is monitored year on year against a code issued by the ITC and measured within the industry.

The Minister hoped that I would withdraw the amendment. I seek to be realistic. Looking around the Chamber, perhaps we might have eight members voting against my amendment with six for it, unless the Government blow the whistle and draw Members in on the Government Benches. It is regrettable that I have to beg leave to withdraw the amendment, but that is the leave that I seek.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Lord Inglewood moved Amendment No. 51:

After Clause 30, insert the following new clause--

Power to vary amount of financial penalties

(".--(1) The Secretary of State may by order amend any of the provisions specified in subsection (2) by substituting a different sum for the sum for the time being specified there.
(2) The provisions referred to in subsection (1) are--
section 11(5)(a);
section 17(2)(a);
section 21(2)(a); and
section 25(2)(a).
(3) An order under subsection (1) shall be subject to annulment in pursuance of a resolution of either House of Parliament.").

The noble Lord said: My Lords, I have spoken to this amendment. I beg to move.

On Question, amendment agreed to.

Clause 33 [Interpretation of Part II]:

[Amendment No. 52 not moved.]

Clause 34 [Radio multiplex services]:

Lord Inglewood moved Amendment No. 53:

Page 27, line 40, leave out ("provided for any area of") and insert ("provided without any restriction by virtue of this Act to a particular area or locality in").

The noble Lord said: My Lords, this is a minor amendment but one which we believe makes fully watertight our definition of national radio multiplex.

5 Mar 1996 : Column 247

The amendment provides that a national radio multiplex is by definition any multiplex which is not by virtue of this Bill a local multiplex. This will avoid any problems of definition which might otherwise occur. I beg to move.

On Question, amendment agreed to.

Clause 40 [National radio multiplex licences]:

Lord Inglewood moved Amendment No. 54:

Page 34, line 26, at end insert--
("( ) In subsection (4)(f) "acquisition" includes acquisition on hire or loan.").

On Question, amendment agreed to.

Clause 41 [Award of national radio multiplex licences]:

Lord Inglewood moved Amendments Nos. 55 to 57:

Page 35, line 3, leave out from ("regard") to end of line 4 and insert ("to the extent to which, taking into account the matters specified in subsection (2) and any representations received by them in pursuance of section 40(7)(b) with respect to those matters, the award of the licence to each applicant would be calculated to promote the development of digital sound broadcasting in the United Kingdom otherwise than by satellite.").
Page 35, line 23, at end insert--
("( ) In subsection (2)(e) "acquisition" includes acquisition on hire or loan.").
Page 35, line 24, leave out subsection (3).

The noble Lord said: My Lords, I have spoken to these amendments. I beg to move.

On Question, amendments agreed to.

Clause 43 [Duty of Authority to reserve digital capacity for certain purposes of BBC]:

Lord Colwyn moved Amendment No. 58:

Page 36, line 33, after ("BBC") insert (", and to all independent local radio services in operation at the relevant date, except where the number of existing analogue licences exceeds the number of available channels on the multiplex,").

The noble Lord said: My Lords, I beg to move Amendment No. 58 and speak to Amendment No. 59. Your Lordships will be pleased to hear that the subject has not come up during the passage of the Bill so far and is appropriate to the Report stage.

Many people will be pleased that independent national radio is to be guaranteed right of access to the national multiplex and that the Secretary of State has promised that national stations will be able to renew their national analogue licences for a further eight years if they take up their guaranteed digital radio places. I understand that similar renewal of analogue licences will be offered to local commercial stations that elect to take out DAB licences. That might encourage commercial radio participation in DAB and is a good thing. However, it is less easy to understand why current local commercial radio services are not afforded the same courtesy as that granted to local BBC services. That is, guaranteed places on the local multiplexes.

Commercial radio might be said to be treated as a second-class citizen in the Bill, despite enjoying a greater share of listening than the BBC. Each national commercial radio station must be in separate ownership and so will not be allowed the same DAB advantages

5 Mar 1996 : Column 248

as those available to the BBC which will own its own national multiplex and may own and operate all the services on it. In addition to giving the BBC that important national monopoly advantage, the Government wish local commercial broadcasters to compete for multiplex places while BBC local services are guaranteed a presence on all local multiplexes, irrespective of either the popularity or merit of the BBC services concerned or the business interests of the commercial broadcasters involved.

Perhaps the Minister is unable to treat local commercial radio with the same care as he has shown to BBC local radio because it is not possible to get all the current London independent stations on the available local DAB space currently set aside. Please do not allow this local London difficulty to affect the rest of the country. There is no need for it to do so, as the words of the amendment make clear. It seeks automatic access only where that is possible. I urge the Minister to reflect on the need for DAB to be strongly supported by all radio broadcasters as soon as possible. The BBC wishes commercial broadcasters to participate fully, swiftly and loudly so that the fruits of the corporation's enormous investment in DAB come through swiftly. The gesture I seek will improve the prospects for that to occur.

If either the amendment I have proposed or the principle behind it is accepted, no doubt subsequent related clauses will also need to be changed. I hope that my noble friend and his department will be able to help in that way. I commend the amendment to the House and take the opportunity to raise briefly a related issue which I hope the Minister will take into account as the Bill proceeds. I have already mentioned the Government's announcement at the time of the Bill's publication which proposed to offer extensions of analogue licence to those who take up digital opportunities. This was encouraging.

However, I understand that some parts of the United Kingdom (mainly along the south coast and in East Anglia) are unlikely to have DAB frequencies made available until around 2005. If and where that is the case, I hope those stations that wish to participate in DAB once it is licensable will be able to declare their interest and claim an extension to their analogue licence, even if they have to wait considerably longer than those more fortunately placed. I am sure that the Minister will share my concern at the possibility of DAB creating a two-tier independent local radio system. I beg to move.

Next Section Back to Table of Contents Lords Hansard Home Page