Part of Digital Markets, Competition and Consumers Bill - Third Reading – in the House of Lords am 4:15 pm ar 26 Mawrth 2024.

Danfonwch hysbysiad imi am ddadleuon fel hyn

Photo of Lord Clement-Jones Lord Clement-Jones Liberal Democrat Lords Spokesperson (Science, Innovation and Technology) 4:15, 26 Mawrth 2024

My Lords, it is a pleasure to follow the noble Baroness, Lady Stowell. I agree with a huge amount of what she said.

I reiterate the welcome that we on these Benches gave to the Bill at Second Reading. We believe it is vital to tackle the dominance of big tech and to enhance the powers of our competition regulators to tackle it, in particular through the new flexible pro-competition powers and the ability to act ex ante and on an interim basis.

We were of the view, and still are, that the Bill needs strengthening in a number of respects. We have been particularly concerned about the countervailing benefits exemption under Clause 29. This must not be used by big tech as a major loophole to avoid regulatory action. A number of other aspects were inserted into the Bill on Report in the Commons about appeals standards and proportionality. During the passage of the Bill, we added a fourth amendment to ensure that the Secretary of State’s power to approve CMA guidance will not unduly delay the regime coming into effect.

As the noble Baroness, Lady Stowell, said, we are already seeing big tech take an aggressive approach to the EU Digital Markets Act. We therefore believe the Bill needs to be more robust in this respect. In this light, it is essential to retain the four key amendments passed on Report and that they are not reversed through ping-pong when the Bill returns to the Commons.

I thank both Ministers and the Bill team. They have shown great flexibility in a number of other areas, such as online trading standards powers, fake reviews, drip pricing, litigation, funding, cooling-off periods, subscriptions and, above all, press ownership, as we have seen today. They have been assiduous in their correspondence throughout the passage of the Bill, and I thank them very much for that, but in the crucial area of digital markets we have seen no signs of movement. This is regrettable and gives the impression that the Government are unwilling to move because of pressure from big tech. If the Government want to dispel that impression, they should agree with these amendments, which passed with such strong cross-party support on Report.

In closing, I thank a number of outside organisations that have been so helpful during the passage of the Bill—in particular, the Coalition for App Fairness, the Public Interest News Foundation, Which?, Preiskel & Co, Foxglove, the Open Markets Institute and the News Media Association. I also thank Sarah Pughe and Mohamed-Ali Souidi in our own Whips’ Office. Last, but certainly not least, I thank my noble friend Lord Fox for his support and—how shall I put it?—his interoperability.

Given the coalition of interest that has been steadily building across the House during the debates on the Online Safety Bill and now this Bill, I thank all noble Lords on other Benches who have made common cause and, consequently, had such a positive impact on the passage of this Bill. As with the Online Safety Act, this has been a real collaborative effort in a very complex area.