HC Deb 09 February 2004 vol 417 c1136W
Mr. Boswell

To ask the Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport what arrangements she has put in place for(a) monitoring and (b) reducing the administrative costs of communications regulation through (i) the running costs of Ofcom and (ii) the compliance costs of business. [153035]

Estelle Morris

Parliament has given Ofcom a large degree of financial autonomy appropriate to its independent status. That is normal with sectoral regulators and especially important in media regulation. Nevertheless it is also subject to a number of measures to ensure proper scrutiny of its expenditure, and that its own costs, and the compliance costs of regulated businesses, are no more than necessary to fulfil its statutory duties under the Communications Act 2003.

Ofcom is required to set its charges in a transparent way and justify them to industry. In exercising all its statutory functions, Ofcom is also required to have due regard, among other things, to the desirability of encouraging investment and innovation, and to the principles of good regulation such as consultation, proportionality and selectivity—all of which are very relevant to compliance costs and overall expenditure. In addition, where it plans to introduce significant new regulation, Ofcom is required to carry out and publish an assessment of the likely impact of the measure, allowing a period for consultation, and to take account of responses to it.

Furthermore, Ofcom must produce an annual report and accounts (the latter subject to certification and report by the Comptroller and Auditor General) to be laid before Parliament; its activities can be scrutinised by the Public Accounts Committee and the relevant departmental Parliamentary Select Committees, and by the National Audit Office; its use of public funds is governed by, among other things, a financial memorandum agreed with the Secretaries of State for Trade and Industry and for Culture, Media and Sport; and its expenditure is subject to resource 'caps' agreed with HM Treasury.

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