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Baroness Miller of Hendon: Heaven forbid that I should ever think anything like that of the Government, or indeed of the Minister. I should not dream of it.

The Minister's answers were interesting. To quote my earlier remark, I am open to an offer from the Minister of a slightly higher figure--certainly not £10 million, but we could be talking about £5 million or slightly more. I was trying to make the point that the amount should not be completely unfettered and without any cap whatever.

I am not of a mind to divide the Committee on matters of this kind at present. We shall consider the Minister's remarks carefully. My amendments are quite reasonable. They merely attempt to point the way. I am glad that the Minister agrees. He has agreed with me so much this evening that it makes it so much easier for me to withdraw amendments. I beg leave to withdraw this one.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Baroness Anelay of St Johns moved Amendment No. 24:



"( ) In managing its affairs, OFCOM must have regard to such generally accepted principles of good corporate governance as it is reasonable to regard as applicable to it."

The noble Baroness said: In moving this amendment, with the leave of the Committee I shall speak also to Amendments Nos. 62, 75 and 76, which are grouped with it. They relate to issues of good corporate governance. I think that they are absolutely on line for a paving Bill. I hope that I am being reasonable, as my noble friend Lady Miller has been. In this instance, I hope that none of the amendments will be said to be relevant only to the later communications Bill. As soon as any appointment is made, Ofcom will have to abide by good corporate governance.

Amendment No. 24 would impose on Ofcom the overriding duty to conduct its affairs in accordance with acknowledged principles of good governance. I hope that the amendment is not controversial.

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Paragraph 8.6.1 of the communications White Paper says that the members of Ofcom,


    "will operate in accordance with the best principles of corporate governance and better regulation".

The amendment would simply put that commitment into the Bill, reflecting the accepted standards for this statutory duty by reflecting the drafting contained in Section 7 of the Financial Services and Markets Act 2000.

It makes no sense to leave the principle to be addressed in the communications Bill. Even Ofcom's interim function will involve the reconciliation of numerous actual and potentially conflicting interests. That is made explicit in paragraph 1(4) of the schedule to the Bill, which allows the Secretary of State to appoint to Ofcom persons previously involved in the regulation of the sector. It must make sense for those with the most relevant experience to fulfil Ofcom's interim function. On the other hand, that heightens the need to ensure that Ofcom acts beyond reproach in overseeing its own creation.

Amendment No. 62 would require Ofcom to keep and maintain accurate records of its decisions. The keeping of accurate records showing exactly what decisions it has reached and on what basis will be fundamental to the work of Ofcom. It will have to do that from day one, when the first members are appointed. I hope that the drafting is not considered controversial. The draft code of practice produced by the noble and learned Lord the Lord Chancellor on the management of records under the Freedom of Information Act 2000 states at paragraph 8.1:


    "Each operational/business unit in an authority [ie public authority] should have in place an adequate system for documenting its activities. This system should take into account the legislative and regulatory environments in which the authority works".

Ofcom will be subject to the Freedom of Information Act, but most parts of the Act, and the code that I have just referred to, are not in force yet. Until that happens, it must make sense for Ofcom to be beyond doubt in recording its decisions in such a way as to enable them to be scrutinised openly and honestly.

Amendment No. 75 refers to the publication of agendas and minutes of meetings at monthly intervals, together with a reason for the decisions taken by the Ofcom board. The aim of the amendment is simply to ensure transparency around the decision-making of Ofcom.

The Community Media Association briefing supplied to your Lordships says:


    "Government should make a commitment from the start to openness, transparency and accountability in the functioning of Ofcom. This should include the publication of agendas and minutes of meetings, a requirement for public consultation and the publication of reasons for decisions"

That is a reasonable request, because if the public and industry cannot have confidence in the openness and accountability of Ofcom's decision-making processes, Ofcom will not be able to function effectively.

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I can be even briefer on Amendment No. 76, which would impose a duty on Ofcom to make public the regulations and procedures by which it has chosen to operate. This paving Bill has omitted any requirement for Ofcom to make public its proceedings. As a public body, it has a duty to make details of its proceedings known for public scrutiny and transparency, as well as in the interests of making information generally available to any interested party. I beg to move.

Lord Holme of Cheltenham: I support the amendments, particularly Amendment No. 24. As a supporter of what the noble Baroness is trying to achieve, I venture to suggest that it is important that, even in its shadow existence, Ofcom observes the principles of good corporate governance. However, I cannot help feeling that some of the amendments in this group are too detailed for a paving Bill and that the rubric of good corporate governance would include some of the more detailed amendments.

10 p.m.

Lord McIntosh of Haringey: The noble Baroness, Lady Anelay, certainly knows how to touch my sore spots and the Financial Services and Markets Act is a sore spot. She rightly points out that her Amendment No. 24 is comparable to the duty which applies to the Financial Services Authority by virtue of the Financial Services and Markets Act. That has not been included in the Bill as Ofcom is a statutory corporation to which the general law on the conduct of such bodies will apply, whereas the Financial Services Authority is a company limited by guarantee which requires statutory reference to governance if that is Parliament's wish.

However, I am not personally convinced that that is a good enough reason for excluding a requirement for Ofcom to conform to accepted principles of good corporate governance. I am certainly happy to take that away and consider whether there are differences which would make it impossible for us to include a measure of that kind on the face of the Bill.

I appreciate the intentions behind Amendments Nos. 62, 75 and 76 to ensure openness and transparency. We share the desire that Ofcom should be as open and transparent as it can. But we want Ofcom to have the discretion, in regulating its own procedures and those of any committees it may establish, to establish flexible procedures which will be able to meet different circumstances and not compromise its operational effectiveness. Maintaining records of decisions and keeping them safe is, as the noble Baroness, Lady Anelay, says, a matter which is included in freedom of information legislation. I should also like to take that issue away and consider whether any additional obligation ought to be placed on Ofcom with regard to record keeping.

I am not so happy with Amendment No. 75. Ofcom will, of course, want to make as much information available as it can in order to maintain the confidence of stakeholders and relevant interests. That might include agendas for meetings or publishing its procedures. However, that may not always be possible. There will be matters of commercial

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sensitivity or cases involving personal privacy or fairness to individuals where the full disclosure of proceedings could reveal information which could itself breach confidentiality. We went over this issue last week in considering orders made under the Financial Services and Markets Act. I think the Committee will agree that the kind of blanket requirement in Amendment No. 75 could have risks. Therefore, as I say, I am substantially less enthusiastic about that amendment.

Amendment No. 76 is perhaps more straightforward. It mentions publishing regulations and procedures. I am sure that that will occur because the principles of the general law on the conduct of such bodies will apply and will make that obligatory. However, just in case there is any doubt about that, that again is a matter I shall consider between now and the next stage.

Baroness Anelay of St Johns: I am grateful to the noble Lord, Lord Holme of Cheltenham, for his partial support for my amendments. I take on board his strictures as regards some of the amendments being too detailed for the Bill. However, I am glad that they elicited from the Minister some further explanation which was most helpful.

I certainly had no intention of touching the Minister's sore spots. They are certainly not too obvious as he always maintains himself with equanimity in the Chamber. However, I am pleased to hear that he is prepared to look again at Amendment No. 24 and the matter of good governance. It would be helpful to include such a measure on the face of the Bill. I was also grateful for his offer to look again at the Freedom of Information Act and its implications with regard to Amendment No. 62. I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Clause 2 agreed to.


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