§ 3.15 p.m.
§ The Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster (Lord Cockfield)
My Lords, I beg to move that the House do now resolve itself into Committee on this Bill.
§ Moved, That the House do now resolve itself into Committee.—(Lord Cockfield.)
§ On Question, Motion agreed to.
§ House in Committee accordingly.
§ [The LORD ABERDARE in the Chair.]
§ Clause 1 [The Director General of Telecommunications]:
§ Lord Lloyd of Kilgerran moved Amendment No. 1:
Page 2, line 3, at beginning insert—
("( ) The Secretary of State shall appoint an Authority known as the Telecommunications Authority (in this Act referred to as "the Authority").
( ) The Authority shall comprise not more than seven persons.
( ) The appointment of a person to the Authority shall not be for a term exceeding five years and such person shall not be eligible for re-appointment.").
§ The noble Lord said: It falls to me to have the privilege of moving the first amendment to this complex Bill which is bound, if and when it is passed, to have profound effects on British industry nationally and internationally. With the leave of your Lordships, I shall also speak to Amendments Nos. 2, 8 and 9.
Amendment No. 2: Page 2, line 3, leave out ("the Secretary of State") and insert ("the Authority").
Amendment No. 8: Page 2, line 10, at end insert—("( ) The Authority shall from time to time publish information regarding matters referred to it by the Director.").
Amendment No. 9: Page 2, line 10, at end insert—("( ) The Director shall in his discretion consult the Authority regarding disputes which have arisen or appear likely to arise relating to the administration and performance of the functions assigned or transferred to him under this Act.").
§ The purpose of the amendment is quite a simple one, but it is an important matter in view of the anxiety among the public, among members of the industry and among people in public life as to the way this Bill is being treated by the Government. The object of having an authority is that it should be composed of members selected by the Secretary of State and chosen from constituent elements of the industry, including, of course, the trade unions.
§ This authority should have merely two functions. First of all, it should appoint the new Director General of Telecommunications, a most important post. Its second function is an advisory function: to be there as a group of wise men and women behind the scenes to whom the director general, in his discretion—it is not mandatory upon him—may refer any of the difficult matters which are bound to arise in the course of his duties. It is not mandatory upon the director general to accept the advice of this authority in any way.
§ Having an authority of that kind appointed by the Secretary of State would help to reduce anxiety about the functions of the Secretary of State. At the present time, in the Bill as it now stands, the Secretary of State alone appoints the director general. Of course, the Secretary of State will hold a number of consultations behind the scenes, but it seems to me that it should be a more open affair. He should have this authority of wise men and women, expert in this industry and in trade union affairs, who should make that first and important appointment. I should have thought that the Secretary of State would find that an attractive proposition to agree to. My amendment refers to the number comprising this authority. I have suggested in the amendment that there should be seven. There is nothing magic about the number seven.
§ Then it must be understood that this authority has no executive authority whatsoever. Perhaps the title "authority", or the title "Telecommunications Authority", are not the correct titles. Perhaps the word "authority" could be changed and it could be called a council. It could be called an advisory body; but in no way would this authority interfere with the executive action of the director general.
§ Consider the position of this director general dealing with profound and difficult matters. Would it not, I ask rhetorically, be of great use to that man to have a number of wise men and women behind the scenes to 1275 whom he could go for advice if he wanted to? He is not compelled to go to them, but in his discretion he can present matters to this body, ask their advice, and then be free not to accept their advice if he, as the senior executive officer, feels that that would be appropriate.
§ The second amendment I am proposing is that, instead of the Secretary of State appointing the director general, it should be done by this so-called authority. Amendment No. 8 is quite formal. The authority would, of course, publish information from time to time regarding matters that have been referred to it by the director. It would be very useful for the authority to provide certain publications from time to time. The last amendment, No. 9, is the one that I have summarised. The director shall, in his own discretion—it is not mandatory—ask for advice from the authority, which he may or may not accept.
§ These seem to me to be simple and practical amendments. They would dilute a great deal of anxiety that is felt about the operation of this Bill. The director general would be appointed not by the Secretary of State but by a group of wise men and women who are in the background. That is the only positive action that they would take. They would then be available to give advice to the director general.
§ Amendment No. 1 is partly concerned with the tenure of these persons on the authority. I have indicated that each person who is a member of the authority shall be appointed for five years. Again, there is no magic in five years, but the amendment states that such persons shall not be eligible for reappointment after that five-year period. I say that because this is a technological industry of the highest order, and an authority or advisory council such as I have suggested would need to have men and women coming on to it and keeping in touch with developments, but not having the job for more than four or five years. It seems to me that this is a very practical suggestion. I know that it has support outside your Lordships' House from large numbers of institutions and parts of the industry. I beg to move.
§ Lord Taylor of Gryfe
I rise to support the amendment moved by my noble friend Lord Lloyd of Kilgerran. In the Second Reading debate I said that the difficulty about this Bill is that it seeks to impose a private enterprise pattern on a natural monopoly. What emerges is a private monopoly, and a private monopoly, like a public monopoly, creates certain anxieties and apprehension. I know of no other measure on which I have been so professionally lobbied as I have been on this Bill because of the proper anxieties of the parties who are affected by it.
First, the trade unions are apprehensive about their position in the new private enterprise set-up. Secondly, the consumers and the consumer protection body are naturally apprehensive about an organisation whose main purpose will be to secure profits for investors in the new enterprise. The groups who are concerned with social responsibilities—the people who are concerned about the disabled, the groups which are concerned about other groups in the community, such as the poor people who do not have a telephone in their home and who are dependent upon public telephone kiosks, and so on, all of which will be a cost 1276 on the new company—and, not least, the manufacturers who are suppliers to this industry, have great anxieties because it is within the power of the director general and the Secretary of State, under the procedures laid down in the Bill, to affect all of them quite dramatically. Consequently, we feel that there ought to be some authority, council or body which provides some degree of accountability or, at least, public awareness of what is going on.
On reading this Bill your Lordships will see that the powers of the Secretary of State and of the director are immense. So I believe, and my friends on these Benches believe, that the establishment of an authority of this kind would, at least, give the whole set-up some degree of credibility and perhaps even a little accountability.
I am attracted to think about this in relation to other private monopolies. I was thinking this morning about the role of the IBA. The IBA issues licences to private enterprise companies, which provide our private enterprise television network, under certain conditions that are laid down in the statute. But there is no question of these companies not being accountable to the IBA. In fact, the IBA, as a separate body, makes sure of the conditions of the licence and ensures that the parties affected and the public have some kind of oversight. The suggestion in this amendment is that this new authority might perform a somewhat similar function. In the case of the IBA, the system works and the public believe in the IBA. They feel that there is a degree of oversight and accountability.
Under this Bill there is an immense concentration of power in the hands of the Secretary of State and the new director general, whoever he may be, but he will be a somewhat remote figure from the 6 million or 8 million people who use a telephone. I believe that there should be some accountability, or some degree of responsibility, to all the groups that I have mentioned—the consumers, the manufacturers and the trade unions—who want to feel that under the constitution there is some body to which they could make some reference and over which they believe that they could have some kind of influence, rather than feel that a remote civil servant and a Minister are the people who will be responsible for discharging this immense public duty. Consequently, I support the amendment.
§ Lord Molloy
I, too, wish to support this amendment for a reason that has not yet been mentioned, and I should also like to support the submissions made by both the noble Lords who have spoken. It seems to me that, if there is anything that the Government ought to do, it is to accept this amendment. They are talking about privatisation and, as I understand it, there are departments of big organisations to look after specific interests. They do not just leave it to the chairman or the managing director. There is a plexus, a hierarchy, which seems to work, and I assume that the Government approve of that system. That being the case, then, to be logical, they will have to approve the amendment moved by the noble Lord, particularly in view of the poignant submission that has been made by both noble Lords with regard to the 8 million or 9 million people who are hard of hearing, blind or disabled.
1277 This is something which is not yet in the licence—I hope to speak on that later—and which ought to be put in immediately. I understand that in another place a promise has already been given to put this in the licence, so I should have thought that the representatives of the Government in the other place and the representatives of the Government in this place would stop some of their bickering, quarrelling and fighting which has been going on over the last few weeks, as we have all read in the newspapers, and come together on a special issue like this.
We are not arguing on behalf of one party or another. It seems to me that the submissions of both noble Lords in introducing the amendment were primarily made on behalf of those of our fellow citizens who are deprived in one way or another—because they have no sight, or are purblind, or because they are hard of hearing or deaf, or because they are disabled in some way. I should have thought that it would be a magnificent gesture by the Government not to leave this solely to the hit or miss vagaries of the market place where, as we all know, men gather together to cheat each other. I hope that they will show genuine concern and understanding for these people. I do not believe that the blind, the disabled and the hard of hearing want sympathy and compassion all the time; but what they do want all the time is understanding. That could be provided if an authority were created which included one member who was given special responsibility for the disabled.
Finally, may I ask the noble Lord, Lord Cockfield, to pay some attention to the fact that during the past 15 years we have seen enormous advances in telecommunications. Almost miracles have been performed in this technological industry. Many of the technical and technological advances which have been made can assist the disabled, as will the results of the research which will be carried out if the Bill becomes law. The licence ought to contain a condition that somebody will have responsibility, under the director general, for making sure that all aspects of technological advance which have not yet been thought of will be used to assist the disabled. The disabled should be given special consideration. If we start along that road with the submission made by the movers of the amendment and carry it forward into the future, we shall do good for those who are the disabled now and for those who we know for certain will be disabled in the future.
§ Lord Glenkinglas
I have a certain amount of sympathy for the mover of the amendment and for the way in which he moved it. I shall listen carefully to what my noble friend has to say, but my worry is how to get this off the ground and functioning. One knows that if one tries to achieve the type of body which I believe he wants to set up, consisting of six, seven, nine or more very distinguished people whom the Minister has to consult only when he wants to do so and to whose advice he does not have to pay any attention, it may well be that after 18 months or so they will all resign because they find the occupation not very well worth while. Having thought about the amendment, my only consolation is that these people will have the power to publish at fairly regular intervals the advice they have given and whether or not the Minister has 1278 accepted it. As soon as one does that, it seems to me to be a little naive to say that the Minister does not have to pay any attention to it.
§ Baroness Phillips
I should like to support the noble Lord who has just spoken. I have sympathy for the amendment. However, having for many years been concerned with bodies which have been set up by governments, it seems to me that it is virtually impossible for them, in the end, to be independent of government. I was on the National Consumer Council. Perhaps it is not in the same distinguished category as this authority. Nevertheless, this body was set up by government. It was noticeable that at each change of government those who were sympathetic towards the Government were immediately put on to this body, while the others were displaced. The Secretary of State will appoint the authority. What certainty shall we have that the authority will be so impartial and so august that it will not be influenced by any change of government? One of the unknown rules in the art of government is, "When we're in we put our friends in, and when they're in they put their friends in". How we are going to change this I shall be very interested to hear. I do not believe that the amendment carries sufficient weight to achieve that end.
§ Lord Ezra
In rising to support the amendment so ably moved by my noble friend Lord Lloyd of Kilgerran I should like to suggest that the Government ought to be very pleased by this proposition. The Bill contemplates the unique transfer of a massive concentration of industrial and technological might from the public to the private sector. It is a totally new venture, and in carrying it out we need to exercise extreme caution. The appointment of a single official, with his very large and wide-ranging powers, to try to regulate this operation virtually on his own, with the Secretary of State coming in behind him as a supervisor, does not seem to me to provide the reassurance which the public will be looking for. Therefore we need to devote some attention to the kind of body which should be set up. Whether it be precisely in the terms proposed by my noble friend or in some other way could be debated, but that there ought to be some body of people who are skilled in the various aspects of these matters and who could have a supervisory role over the whole operation seems to me to be highly desirable. That body must clearly be separate and distinct from government. It should be a body in which the public can feel that regular supervision is being exercised and that there is not an undue concentration of power in the hands of one man in this unique transfer of industrial power from the public to the private sector.
§ The Countess of Mar
I rise to support the amendment of the noble Lord, Lord Lloyd of Kilgerran. Nothing has yet been said about the tremendous complexity of the telecommunications industry. It covers almost every single aspect of our lives and it will take a superman to be able to cope with it all. This man will need somebody whom he can use as a sounding block, if not as a statutory adviser. If he were on his own I should not give him long before he had a nervous breakdown.
1279 A great deal has been said about the disadvantaged. There are plenty of them. However, we must not forget that there are hundreds of thousands of ordinary domestic telephone subscribers who will also suffer under the Bill and who will need somebody to whom they can turn. They need to be reassured that it is not a question of just one man, who can wield his power in whichever way he likes and whenever he likes to do so. Therefore I support the amendment.
§ Lord McIntosh of Haringey
We wish in general terms to support the amendment moved by the noble Lord, Lord Lloyd of Kilgerran, for very much the same reasons as he put forward. It is quite clear that the job to be done by the Director General of Telecommunications will be complicated. By the way, I wish that the noble Countess, Lady Mar, would not refer all the time to this person as "him"—or, as I hope that it might be, her. The complication of the task to be undertaken by the director general is clearly very great. It is not just a matter of monitoring the activities of British Telecom and other operators. The range of interests to be covered includes not only the operators but the manufacturers and in particular the consumers, to whom other noble Lords have already referred. It is impossible to expect the ability to cover all these diverse interests to be subsumed in the shape of one person.
The Department of Industry, in a statement issued in July of last year, referred to the task of the Office of Telecommunications as being to see fair play being done in telecommunications. What better way is there of achieving that than to have a body of people forming an authority, a council, or whatever it may turn out to be, who can represent the diverse interests involved and who can more readily approach the task of seeing that there is fair play than could a single person?
I will not make any adverse reference to particular appointments but if one takes it from the point of view of the Secretary of State himself, the risk of a political appointment to a position of this kind is very great; the risk of having somebody whose qualifications are those of a party loyalist rather than those of someone having a real understanding of the industry is very great. Nothing can do away with that risk. Nothing can do away with the responsibility of the Secretary of State supported, as we will propose in future amendments, by Parliament to make such an appointment. But the way in which that appointment is made and the way in which the powers are executed can be made more democratic by the support of an authority.
In general terms, then, we support the amendment. The only qualification we would have—but it will not stop us from supporting the noble Lords who moved this amendment as far as they want to go—would be on the degree of parliamentary control. Later amendments in our own names ask for greater parliamentary control and so go against Amendment No. 2, to which the noble Lord, Lord Lloyd of Kilgerran, has referred already. That qualification is not enough to detract from our support for the principle of some authority or body coming between the Secretary of State and the director general.
Arising out of the remarks made by the noble Lord, Lord McIntosh of Haringey, I am concerned that he will be "his-ing" and "her-ing" all the way through the Committee stage of this Bill. The noble Lord knows as well as I do that even in law "male" embraces 'female".
§ Baroness Carnegy of Lour
Before deciding what we should do with this amendment, we need to be clear exactly what it is that the amendment is saying. Is the amendment proposing an "Authority" with a capital "A" to whom the director general will be responsible—which is what the noble Lord, Lord Ezra, seemed to be talking about; or is the amendment proposing an advisory committee which will not be executive at all, except that it will have one enormously important executive act to perform—the appointment of the director general? The latter is what the noble Lord, Lord Lloyd of Kilgerran, was suggesting. We have heard two completely different suggestions from the noble Lords proposing this amendment and a variety of proposals from noble Lords backing them. We need to be clear what it is that has been suggested.
§ Baroness Macleod of Borve
I agree with the principle of the amendment because I believe that this job is too big for one man to assume. The noble Lord, Lord Taylor of Gryfe, alluded to the Independent Broadcasting Authority, of which I was a member for five years. He was absolutely correct, as far as I know, in saying that many other organisations were appointed when the local radio stations, for instance, came into being. They were completely separate, but there was still the authority—which was appointed by the Secretary of State. Nevertheless, the independent radio stations were very independent and I doubt very much whether the Secretary of State had much to do with the running of the Independent Broadcasting Authority.
Having said that I approve of the principle of this amendment, I humbly suggest that the number of persons comprising the authority may be varied from the seven proposed in the amendment, either one way or the other. Also, the proposal that an appointee shall not be eligible for reappointment after five years seems to me to be a mistake. One must have continuity; otherwise, one may not get fluid reasoning behind all the work that is done by the authority. I disagree with that provision, but I certainly agree with the principle of the amendment to establish an authority.
§ 3.56 p.m.
§ Lord Cockfield
May I first congratulate the noble Lord, Lord Lloyd of Kilgerran, for being first in to bat on the Committee stage of this most important Bill. I only wish that it could have been possible for me in due course to congratulate him on knocking the first ball to the boundary—but I fear that will not be so. I hope that in due course I will be able to say that the noble Lord has been caught and bowled.
Like the noble Lord, I propose addressing my remarks to this group of amendments because they do 1281 stand together. I appreciate the spirit in which the noble Lord has moved this amendment because I am sure his intention is to facilitate the smooth and effective working of the Bill. But I must say, frankly, that I do not believe it would have that effect. It is not a proposal that would sit at all happily with the structure for the regulatory system which is included in the Bill itself.
The amendment, as my noble friend Lady Carnegy of Lour pointed out, is very limited in its scope. The noble Lords, Lord Ezra and Lord Taylor of Gryfe, seemed to suggest that it might be rather wider in its scope than it is. Certainly I appreciate that the noble Lord, Lord McIntosh of Haringey, would like to see its scope wider than it is. But I propose taking the amendment as it stands on the Marshalled List.
The body proposed in the amendment would not in fact exercise the executive functions which the Bill itself confers on the director general. It would not do that at all. It would be quite unlike a body such as the Civil Aviation Authority, if I may quote that as an example. In fact, it would have two functions. The first would be to appoint the director general. The second would be to advise the director general. Let me take those two functions. Under the terms of the Bill, the director general is appointed by the Secretary of State. That follows the practice which is pretty universally adopted in this field. The nearest parallel is the Director General of Fair Trading, who is also appointed by the Secretary of State, but there are numerous other examples which may be quoted.
There is a very good reason for that procedure. It is that the Secretary of State is answerable to Parliament, and what he does can be called into question in Parliament. At later stages in our discussions, noble Lords will no doubt be pressing for there to be greater parliamentary involvement. One of the principal reasons that the Bill provides for the Secretary of State to appoint the director general is to achieve that chain of parliamentary responsibility.
I will turn now to the advisory function. There is provision in Clause 52 for advisory bodies to be set up. That is mandatory in the case of advisory bodies for England, Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland. There are amendments on the Marshalled List which would provide for the creation of other advisory bodies. Quite apart from that, the real point is that the Bill very clearly defines what the functions and duties of the director general and the Secretary of State are to be. In the last resort, the director general can be challenged in the courts by somebody who is aggrieved by a decision he has taken. It would sit very ill with a chain of responsibility of that sort to attempt to interpose an advisory body—particularly if one bears in mind the fact that the body would only advise if the director general asked that body to do so. The intention, I quite accept, is that the body should act as a guide, a comforter and a support for the director general. But it just does not fit in with the pattern of the Bill, which is one of establishing legal duties and, therefore, legal rights.
There is also the point that I might make that the director general is obliged to produce a report every year, and that report could be debated in Parliament under the normal rules, so there is supervision exercised by Parliament in that direction. The 1282 Secretary of State, of course, is also subject to examination and challenge in Parliament. Provision is also made in the Bill in certain circumstances, where there is a disagreement between the director general and a licensee over the terms of a licence, for the director general to go to the Monopolies Commission. So in that broad area there is a channel for a second opinion to be obtained.
The simple position, quite frankly, is that the Bill makes ample provision for the exercise of the powers given to the director general—and they are very great powers; I do not in any way dispute that. There is ample provision for the supervision of the exercise of those powers by Parliament, and ample provision for people to challenge his decisions in courts of law. While, therefore, I entirely appreciate the sentiments underlying the amendment, I frankly could not advise your Lordships to accept it, because it would not be consistent with the general pattern of the Bill and it would not in fact add any protection which does not exist at present. Nor would it make it possible for Parliament to exercise any greater control than it can exercise already through the Secretary of State.
Lord Bruce of Donington
I am sorry the noble Lord finds himself unable to agree with this very moderate and well-argued amendment put forward by the noble Lord, Lord Lloyd of Kilgerran. The noble Lord waxed almost ecstatic over the virtues of parliamentary control. Perhaps it might occur to him that the general powers conferred on the Secretary of State under Section 6 of the Telecommunications Act 1981 are working very well, thank you, and that there is adequate parliamentary responsibility there.
It rather seems to me that this is a Bill that is cast over a very wide field and in very wide detail. What is now happening is that there is being given to a specific individual, the Director General of Telecommunications and Oftel, detailed powers that would seem to cut right across the noble Lord's ideological concept of freedom for private enterprise to go about its own work without detailed interference by the state. The argument seems to be contrary.
This Bill differs from most other Bills of its type in that it deals essentially with the privatisation of a very well known and very well respected public service. Here it breaks new ground, and there is widespread anxiety, which the noble Lord must know, all over the country, not confined to any one party, as to the steps being taken. There is a degree of nervousness, and the noble Lord must take account of it, that very wide powers should be concentrated at this moment in the hands of the Secretary of State, who certainly cannot be described as a political neutral in the party struggle. He is a well-known, respected and partisan politician. There is perhaps a feeling, of which the noble Lord ought to take account, that there has to be a little check here.
If one takes the analogy of what goes on in private industry, the noble Lord is well aware that there are such things as non-executive directors on the boards of companies, and they mainly serve the purpose of acting as a sounding board for the managing director to express his views. They offer their own free and independent views to him, although they do not take an active part in the management of the company. I do 1283 not want to put words into the mouth of the noble Lord, Lord Lloyd of Kilgerran, but I think that is the kind of non-executive function he has in mind for this particular authority. I think that wise, and I think the country may think it wise, in an important appointment of this kind covering a very wide field, embracing not only the fortunes of manufacturers, the fates of those who provide the service and the whole nature of the machinery of plant and service techniques involved, but also the fate of the individual customer. Remember that over 80 per cent. of British homes have telephones at this time. It ought not to be left to the sole determination of the Secretary of State to make this very important appointment. We shall refer to other characteristics of the appointee, as we see him, later in the debate.
I think the terms of the amendment are very moderate. I think that perhaps at a later stage, if the amendment were fortunately carried, some work would have to be done before the Report stage in order to carry the full implications into the Bill. But it is a provision which I think would command very wide respect throughout the Committee, and I sincerely hope your Lordships will support it.
§ Lord Ezra
In his very reasoned reply to the amendment the noble Lord, Lord Cockfield, referred to Clause 52, which makes provision for the establishment of certain advisory bodies. The weakness in Clause 52, I submit, is that those advisory bodies would be appointed by the director himself; he would appoint them if he wished, and he would nominate their members. It seems to me that this is a very weak alternative to the independent advisory body my noble friend has proposed.
§ Lord Weinstock
Would the noble Lord, Lord Cockfield, perhaps agree that the strongest argument against this amendment is that it makes no material difference to what is basically a rather unsatisfactory Bill?
§ Lord Molloy
I wonder whether the noble Lord, Lord Cockfield, would be prepared to consider the arguments that have been submitted. I did not think that his arguments were moderately put, but I thought we had a faint ray of hope that the Government might like to consider some aspects of the points made by the noble Lord, Lord Lloyd, and later by Lord Ezra.
When the noble Lord, Lord Cockfield, says that the director general has all these powers and is answerable to the Secretary of State, it seems to me that this runs quite contrary to any normal business function of any big company or any big organisation. There always seems to be a team with special responsibilities, and that is what we are asking for. What we do not want, whether or not advisory, is extra people appointed with responsibility. I believe that in this country we have always set our face against the principle of authoritarian dictatorship. That is what seems to be written into the Bill, and that is what we are asking the Minister to change.
My final point is this. Every member of this Committee knows full well that the Secretary of State has a massive band of support behind him. He has 1284 massive Civil Service support, and some of the civil servants are very eminent people in particular fields who have special responsibilities. We all know that in the Foreign Office there are many eminent people, eminent scholars with special knowledge of certain parts of the world, and so on. All that we are asking is that the director general should also be equipped with a team which has special responsibility because it is such a large organisation, similar to a small department of state or a large private enterprise undertaking. In so far as this aspect seems congruous I hope that the noble Lord, Lord Cockfield, will at least say he will take the amendment and consider it.
§ Lord Donaldson of Kingsbridge
I hope that the noble Lord will pay attention to what my noble friend Lord Ezra said. The reason I favour this amendment is that this is the first place in the Bill where the consumer can get any attention at all, and I agree with the noble Lord, Lord Weinstock, that the position is in many ways entirely unsatisfactory. We have amendments tabled on Clause 52; but as my noble friend Lord Ezra pointed out, the committees with which we should have to fiddle about to get some proper consumer representation would be appointed by the director general, which is quite clearly not the right way to appoint consumer representation.
I ask the noble Lord not just to refuse this amendment but to look at it again and see how it can be brought in so that the things that the whole Committee, without a single exception, has said are desirable but which may not be in quite the right form, can be considered and perhaps brought back by the Government later.
§ The Countess of Mar
The noble Lord, Lord Cockfield, said that consumers would have recourse to the courts. At present, if consumers have a complaint against British Telecom they can write to the Council of Post Office Unions, to their MPs, to the general manager of the telephone area concerned, or to the director of the region concerned and in every case when such a letter is received it is marked as a flag case and dealt with very promptly. Although consumers might not get financial reimbursement, the cases are dealt with very sympathetically and rapidly. I wonder whether the noble Lord realises that "grannie in the glen", as the noble Lord, Lord Ferrier, always describes her, is probably terrified of the courts and probably cannot afford to use them. What recourse has she?
§ Viscount Trenchard
I wonder whether the movers of this amendment would accept that my noble friend's answer in relation to the appointment of the director general by the Secretary of State really is unarguable. If the Secretary of State is to be responsible to Parliament for the activities of this vitally important area, he must have the usual right to appoint the director general. Perhaps the movers of the amendment would like to consider whether the advisory functions, which are in the other part of the amendment, should be strengthened in a different form of amendment. That would seem to me to be a subject well worth further discussion.
§ Lord Lloyd of Kilgerran
We have had a long and interesting debate on this important matter and I am grateful to all who have spoken, if I may presume to say so. I was very grateful to the noble Lord the Minister because he came a long way towards me, at least in so far as my sentiments are concerned. I felt that the theme, as it were, behind my amendment touched him and he was kind enough to say a few words about me personally.
The noble Baroness, Lady Carnegy of Lour, referred to a point that is worrying her and touched on the kernel of the matter. I could not call the authority an advisory body because its first function is to appoint the director general. Therefore, in that aspect it is taking a positive action which is not an advisory matter. Subsequently, its whole career, if that is the right way to put it, would be advisory where the director general could use its talents as he so wished. Of course, if the authority found that the director general did not accept its advice, its members could resign. But what of that? Many a body has advised a Secretary of State and the advice has been rejected. But the sanction behind the authority is that it can regularly publish the reasons why the director general did or did not accept the advice.
May I presume for a moment to analyse the real objections by the Government to my proposals. The noble Lord said—and I hope I have noted his words correctly—that in the Bill there is ample provision for the exercise of powers by the director general. I agree with him. But I am not in my amendment affecting in any way the executive position of the director general or any of his duties. Therefore, the first point made against my amendment by the noble Lord, Lord Cockfield, falls to the ground. He said that the amendment was not consistent with the pattern of the Bill. Those seem to me to be only words. What is the pattern of this complex Bill? The first thing is that the Secretary of State is to appoint the director general. That is the pattern of the Bill and my amendment is directed towards that.
The noble Baroness, Lady Phillips, was worried about whom should be appointed and that it might be political, with the chap changing from one government to another. May I assure her, as she well knows, that there is no justice in this world Surely it is better that an authority, a group of men and women, should appoint this man rather than the one politician—the Secretary of State. I see that as the noble Baroness is nodding her head in agreement she has accepted my argument that there is no problem in this matter as outlined by her.
The Minister referred to the fact that anyone in dispute with the director general could go to the Monopolies Commission or the Office of Fair Trading. That would inevitably lead to a delay of about two years; and, as the noble Countess, Lady Mar, said, it is an expensive matter to go to the courts.
My final point is that here is an amendment for which, if I may presume to say so—because many members of the Committee have said this—there is general sympathy. There are perhaps certain general procedural matters that can be sorted out later; but there is general sympathy for it. Because of the immense power behind the director general, the great 1286 importance of the Bill and the great anxiety there is on this matter, why not alter the practice of the past? Therefore, I wish to press my amendment.
§ 4.19 p.m.
§ On Question, Whether the said amendment (No. 1) shall be agreed to?
§ Their Lordships divided: Contents, 112; Not-Contents, 116.1287
|DIVISION NO. 1|
|Airedale, L.||Jenkins of Putney, L.|
|Alport, L.||John-Mackie, L.|
|Amherst, E.||Kaldor, L.|
|Ardwick, L.||Kearton, L.|
|Attlee, E.||Kennet, L.|
|Aylestone, L.||Kilmarnock, L.|
|Banks, L.||Kirkhill, L.|
|Barrington, V.||Kitchener, E.|
|Beswick, L.||Lawrence, L.|
|Birk, B.||Leatherland, L.|
|Bishopston, L.||Listowel, E.|
|Blyton, L.||Llewelyn-Davies of Hastoe, B.|
|Boston of Faversham, L.||Lloyd of Hampstead, L.|
|Briginshaw, L.||Lloyd of Kilgerran, L.|
|Brooks of Tremorfa, L.||Longford, E.|
|Bruce of Donington, L.||Lovell-Davis, L.|
|Buck master, V.||McGregor of Durris, L.|
|Burton of Coventry, B.||McIntosh of Haringey, L.|
|Carmichael of Kelvingrove, L.||McNair, L.|
|Carver, L.||Mais, L.|
|Chelmsford, Bp.||Mar, C.|
|Collison, L.||Mayhew, L.|
|Dacre of Glanton, L.||Mishcon, L.|
|David, B.||Molloy, L.|
|Davies of Penrhys, L.||Nicol, B.|
|Dean of Beswick, L.||O'Brien of Lothbury, L.|
|Delacourt-Smith of Altervn, B.||Oram, L.|
|Denington, B.||Phillips, B.|
|Diamond, L.||Plant, L.|
|Donaldson of Kingsbridge, L.||Ponsonby of Shulbrede, L.|
|Donnet of Balgay, L.||Porritt, L.|
|Edmund-Davies, L.||Rathcreedan, L.|
|Elystan-Morgan, L.||Rea, L.|
|Evans of Claughton, L.||Richardson, L.|
|Ezra, L.||Rochester, L.|
|Fisher of Rednal, B.||Segal, L.|
|Fitt, L.||Simon, V.|
|Gaitskell, B.||Stamp, L.|
|Gallacher, L.||Stedman, B. [Teller.]|
|Galpern, L.||Stewart of Alvechurch, B.|
|Gladwyn, L.||Stewart of Fulham, L.|
|Gormley, L.||Stoddart of Swindon, L.|
|Graham of Edmonton, L.||Stone, L.|
|Grey, E. [Teller.]||Strabolgi, L.|
|Hale, L.||Strauss, L.|
|Hall, V.||Taylor of Blackburn, L.|
|Hampton, L.||Taylor of Gryfe, L.|
|Harris of Greenwich, L.||Taylor of Mansfield, L.|
|Hatch of Lusby, L.||Tordoff, L.|
|Hooson, L.||Underhill, L.|
|Hunt, L.||Wallace of Coslany, L.|
|Hylton-Foster, B.||White, B.|
|Ilchester, E.||Willis, L.|
|Jacobson, L.||Winchilsea and Nottingham, E.|
|Jeger, B.||Wootton of Abinger, B.|
|Adeane, L.||Belhaven and Stenton, L.|
|Alexander of Tunis, E.||Bellwin, L.|
|Atholl, D.||Belstead, L.|
|Auckland, L.||Bessborough, E.|
|Avon, E.||Boyd-Carpenter, L.|
|Brookes, L.||Luke, L.|
|Bruce-Gardyne, L.||Lyell, L.|
|Caccia, L.||McAlpine of West Green, L.|
|Campbell of Alloway, L.||McFadzean, L.|
|Campbell of Croy, L.||Mackay of Clashfern, L.|
|Carnegy of Lour, B.||Margadale, L.|
|Carrington, L.||Marley, L.|
|Cathcart, E.||Marshall of Leeds, L.|
|Clitheroe, L.||Massereene and Ferrard, V.|
|Cockfield, L.||Maude of Stratford-upon-Avon, L.|
|Constantine of Stanmore, L.|
|Cork and Orrery, E.||Merrivale, L.|
|Croft, L.||Morris, L.|
|Cullen of Ashbourne, L.||Mottistone, L.|
|Daventry, V.||Mountgarret, V.|
|Davidson, V.||Mowbray and Stourton, L.|
|De La Warr, E.||Murton of Lindisfarne, L.|
|Denham, L.||Northchurch, B.|
|Dilhorne, V.||Onslow, E.|
|Drumalbyn, L.||Orkney, E.|
|Ebbisham, L.||Orr-Ewing, L.|
|Eccles, V.||Pender, L.|
|Effingham, E.||Pennock, L.|
|Elles, B.||Polwarth, L.|
|Elton, L.||Portland, D.|
|Enniskillen, E.||Rodney, L.|
|Faithfull, B.||St. Davids, V.|
|Fanshawe of Richmond, L.||Saint Oswald, L.|
|Ferrers, E.||Saltoun, Ly.|
|Fraser of Kilmorack, L.||Sandford, L.|
|Gainford, L.||Sempill, Ly.|
|Gisborough, L.||Shaughnessy, L.|
|Glanusk, L.||Skelmersdale, L.|
|Glasgow, E.||Somers, L.|
|Glenarthur, L.||Spens, L.|
|Glenkinglas, L.||Strathcarron, L.|
|Gormanston, V.||Sudeley, L.|
|Gowrie, E.||Suffield, L.|
|Greenway, L.||Swinton, E. [Teller.]|
|Gridley, L.||Terrington, L.|
|Grimthorpe, L.||Teviot, L.|
|Hailsham of Saint Marylebone, L.||Teynham, L.|
|Harvington, L.||Torphichen, L.|
|Henley, L.||Trefgarne, L.|
|Hives, L.||Trenchard, V.|
|Home of the Hirsel, L.||Trumpington, B.|
|Hornsby-Smith, B.||Vaizey, L.|
|Jessel, L.||Vaux of Harrowden, L.|
|Kinnaird, L.||Ward of Witley, V.|
|Lane-Fox, B.||Weinstock, L.|
|Lloyd, L.||Whitelaw, V.|
|Long, V. [Teller.]||Windlesham, L.|
|Lucas of Chilworth, L.||Wynford, L.|
§ Resolved in the negative, and amendment disagreed to accordingly.
§ Moved accordingly, and, on Question, Motion agreed to.
§ House resumed.