Clause 51 - Restrictions on action where public

Enterprise Bill – in a Public Bill Committee am 6:00 pm ar 30 Ebrill 2002.

Danfonwch hysbysiad imi am ddadleuon fel hyn

Question proposed, That the clause stand part of the Bill.

Photo of Andrew Lansley Andrew Lansley Ceidwadwyr, South Cambridgeshire

You would not think it good, Mr. Conway, if I were to repeat the argument that I advanced in detail on clause 40. However, the Under-Secretary, my hon. Friend the Member for Eastbourne and I have pursued that argument for some time.

The 24-week period in the clause need not be so long and there would be much merit in making it shorter. The danger of providing for such a period is that it happens to coincide with the length of time allowed to the Competition Commission for its investigation. As the Under-Secretary says, it is a long stop. Having issued an intervention notice, the Secretary of State can consider how the order is to be made through Parliament and consult on it, almost until the very day on which the Competition Commission has to complete its investigation. If the Secretary of State backs out and the order is not finalised, the reference might fall.

It is inherently undesirable for the Secretary of State to use all the time available under that limit. The idea that action should be taken ''as soon as practicable'', found in clause 40(7), should also be applied under this clause, and the long stop should be a lesser period of time. The question is how long. I have not tabled an amendment, so I shall suggest something for the Under-Secretary to think about before Report.

Given that 12 weeks is the usual time allowed for Government consultation, and given that the Secretary of State must, at the time of the intervention notice, have a substantive idea of the grounds on which an order would be made, it seems reasonable that the period should be 12 weeks—or, at the most 16 weeks, if one adds 28 days for the laying of an order. If the Under-Secretary were to consider that, I should be satisfied.

Photo of Miss Melanie Johnson Miss Melanie Johnson Parliamentary Under-Secretary, Department of Trade and Industry 6:15, 30 Ebrill 2002

I shall give further consideration to that. I do not believe that our desires and the hon. Gentleman's are very different in this regard—should those things occur, they should be dealt with as expeditiously as possible. I would still need to consider whether a reduction in the time frame, and importing the same constraints, can be lived with, given the need to meet the parliamentary and other time frames that I mentioned a few moments ago. I shall reflect on it, but

I make no promises about the outcome. I shall simply bear in mind what the hon. Gentleman has said.

Question put and agreed to.

Clause 51 ordered to stand part of the Bill.

Clauses 52 to 54 ordered to stand part of the Bill.