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Baroness Miller of Hendon had given notice of her intention to move Amendment No. 31:

"( ) Nothing in this Act shall come into force until a bill, draft or otherwise, to give effect to the proposals referred to in section 2(3) is introduced into either House of Parliament."

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The noble Baroness said: My Lords, I take the same action as that of the noble Lord, Lord Gordon of Strathblane.

[Amendment No. 31 not moved.]

Schedule [Further provision about OFCOM]:

Baroness Blackstone moved Amendment No. 32:

    Page 7, line 4, leave out "non-staff" and insert "non-executive"

On Question, amendment agreed to.

Baroness Anelay of St Johns moved Amendment No. 33:

    Page 7, line 7, at end insert—

"( ) Before appointing a person as a non-staff member of OFCOM, the Secretary of State shall satisfy himself that the appointments panel has taken into account the views of the chairman before making their recommendations as to the appointments to be made."

The noble Baroness said: My Lords, this is a probing amendment. I tabled it to give the Government the opportunity to respond to what I thought was a constructive suggestion put forward by the noble Lord, Lord Dubs, in Committee, at col. 166 on 6th November, on the procedure for appointing non-staff members to Ofcom.

The noble Lord, Lord Dubs, said that the chair of a body such as Ofcom was not usually involved in the Nolan process of selecting members of the board. He suggested that the independent Nolan-type panel should be given the opportunity to have the chair of Ofcom present when making decisions on appointments so that they could ask questions about the detailed requirements of the post rather than having to rely on a written summary and a prepared briefing.

Now that the Minister has had the opportunity to consider that idea, I wonder whether she can put on the record the Government's view. Do they agree that that could be a useful procedure? I beg to move.

Lord Dubs: My Lords, I stick by what I said previously. It represents what would be good practice and I hope that the Government seek to extend it across a range of appointments as a way of making the process more efficient. However, I do not think that it is appropriate for the Bill.

Lord McIntosh of Haringey: My Lords, as the noble Baroness, Lady Anelay said, the amendment concerns the involvement of the chairman of Ofcom in the appointment of non-executive directors. As I said in Committee, the appointment of non-executive members of Ofcom—I am now using the words "non-executive" instead of "non-staff"—will be in line with the guidance issued by the Office of the Commissioner for Public Appointments. The guidance says that departments may seek the views of the chairman of the body concerned on issues such as selection criteria and the balance of the board. Although the guidance says "may", it is an example of when it would be foolish to ignore it.

The chairman will be involved in drawing up the role specifications for a particular board vacancy in putting forward names of potential candidates and

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considering names suggested by other sources. The aim of the guidance is to keep chairs fully in touch throughout the appointments process and that will be the case for appointments of non-executive members to Ofcom. There is no need to set that out in the Bill.

On the issue of whether the chair should be present, which my noble friend Lord Dubs raised in Committee, that is a BBC procedure that predates the Nolan proposals. We do not propose to introduce it in this case.

6.30 p.m.

Baroness Anelay of St Johns: My Lords, I am grateful to the Minister for putting on record a further explanation. I made it clear that this was a probing amendment. There are some questions of good practice to which we may return. I am grateful to the Minister for saying that this is one kind of good practice that the organisation would be rather foolish to ignore. I am very interested in the comment of the noble Lord, Lord Dubs, that perhaps this is the kind of good practice that should be practised—for want of a better expression—more widely. I shall look at it in further detail, but at this stage I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Baroness Blackstone moved Amendment No. 34:

    Page 7, line 9, leave out "non-staff" and insert "non-executive"

On Question, amendment agreed to.

Baroness Anelay of St Johns moved Amendment No. 35:

    Page 7, line 10, at end insert—

"( ) Before appointing a person to be the chairman, the Secretary of State shall also satisfy himself that the person will have no employment or other commitments or responsibilities as are likely to affect prejudicially his ability to devote sufficient time to the undertaking of his functions as the chairman and as a member of OFCOM."

The noble Baroness said: My Lords, in moving Amendment No. 35 I shall speak also to Amendment No. 41 which is grouped with it. Both are probing amendments which in a sense are tidying-up questions on matters of good practice which I hope will not need to be taken further if we are given an explanation by the Government. Both amendments deal with the Government's expectations with regard to the role of the members and chairman of Ofcom.

I tabled Amendment No. 35 in response to remarks made by the noble Baroness, Lady Blackstone, in Committee in relation to an amendment which examined the reasons why the Secretary of State should, or could, allow a member of Ofcom to remain in post, even though he or she was incapacitated or unfit to carry out functions as a member of the board. On 6th November the Minister argued at col. 163 of the Official Report that the Secretary of State should retain discretion as to whether or not to remove unfit persons on the basis that they may be only temporarily unfit. The Minister gave as an example the scenario

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where an Ofcom member may have taken a temporary job which was in conflict with his or her remaining a member of Ofcom.

The Minister argued that the Secretary of State should be able to leave that person in office while he or she took a temporary break from the work of Ofcom. Has the Minister had an opportunity to consider further the implications of this for the effective operation of Ofcom? After all, at the moment the Bill provides for a maximum of six members of Ofcom: one of them will be chairman and another chief executive. Even if the size of the board is increased by secondary legislation the Government have made it clear that they intend the board should be as small as possible.

There is no doubt that absences from meetings of the board will compromise the operation of Ofcom. Some absences are unavoidable and will not be the choice of the board member, for example, because of his or her illness. But it is altogether another matter if the board member has accepted an appointment to Ofcom knowing full well what the work and its responsibilities entail and subsequently decides to take on another job which he or she knows will prevent that member from doing his or her duty as an Ofcom board member. If that occurred it would not appear to be responsible action by that individual. Certainly, it would be odd if the Government gave anyone the green light to do that.

The Nolan procedures are both welcome and proper, but we should recognise that it takes a considerable time to make appointments. Once made, the successful appointees must be under no illusion that they should take their role seriously and are not able to opt in and out of the work as it may be convenient to their business careers. Can the Minister explain to the House the Government's further thoughts on these matters? For example, will the Secretary of State take a different view if the temporary job is taken by the chairman rather than one of the members; if it is for six months rather than six days—in other words, whether the length of time matters—or if this is the second or subsequent occasion that a member has decided to opt out of his or her Ofcom work?

I turn briefly to Amendment No. 41 which I tabled as a consequence of the comment by the Minister in Committee that,

    "the chairman is likely to be part-time".—[Official Report, 29/10/01; col. 1228.]

We have already been told that the appointment of chairman will be made next year. One hopes and assumes, therefore, that the Government have already made great strides in preparing a job description for that post. Can the Government confirm that? If so, will the Government be able to publish it before the Bill leaves this House?

The proposal to have a part-time chairman raises three questions which I should be grateful if the Minister could address tonight. What will be his or her responsibilities? How part-time is "part-time"? How can the work of four existing heads of regulators and the Secretary of State's duties in relation to radio

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communications be carried out adequately by one part-time chairman at Ofcom? The Minister may say that one cannot be aware of all this until later, but since she is already on record as saying that the chairman is likely to be part-time one assumes that these matters have been taken into consideration.

The Minister also said, again at col. 1228, that,

    "The chief executive will be a full-time appointee and an expert in matters of regulation".

Does that mean that the Government anticipate that the chairman could be inexperienced in such matters? I beg to move.

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