Clause 57 - Intervention by Secretary of State

Enterprise Bill – in a Public Bill Committee am 6:45 pm ar 30 Ebrill 2002.

Danfonwch hysbysiad imi am ddadleuon fel hyn

Photo of Nigel Waterson Nigel Waterson Ceidwadwyr, Eastbourne 6:45, 30 Ebrill 2002

I beg to move amendment No. 260, in page 40, line 10, leave out ''special''.

This probing amendment raises a narrow point. The clause is a discrete little regime for dealing with mergers that basically involve defence contractors who may, in the course of business, have access to secret information. We accept that there are grounds for vetting those companies, perhaps more carefully than

other companies. However, we are slightly puzzled that what is called a ''special merger situation'' is defined by reference to the normal definition but omitting the thresholds—25 per cent. UK market share or £45 million turnover—set out in clause 20 that we debated earlier.

The problem that we are trying to deal with under this clause is entirely divorced from competition, or any other issue that might legitimately be called enterprise. I am trying to probe the Under-Secretary on exactly how the clause is engineered, to confirm that it is simply a matter of being able to prohibit a merger on the grounds of secrecy of information. Can she confirm that there is no intention to have issues of competition and enterprise involved in what I accept is a discrete regime to deal with that particular group of contractors?

Photo of Miss Melanie Johnson Miss Melanie Johnson Parliamentary Under-Secretary, Department of Trade and Industry

I take it that the amendment is probing, which the hon. Gentleman has confirmed. To date, we have had no representations. The purpose of the special public interest provision is to ensure that mergers of certain enterprises with special defence-related Government contracts can be investigated, even though they fall short of the competition thresholds. That provision applies to a small, narrowly defined subsection of merger cases, which have been developed to work under ministerial discretion, as with other public interest cases. However, unlike other national security cases, they will not be scrutinised on competition grounds as they do not meet competition thresholds. The amendment would remove the Government's ability to consider those special cases. That ability should exist, so I trust that in light of my explanation the hon. Gentleman will feel able to withdraw the amendment.

Photo of Nigel Waterson Nigel Waterson Ceidwadwyr, Eastbourne

I am happy with that explanation. I beg to ask leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Clause 57 ordered to stand part of the Bill.

Clauses 58 to 64 ordered to stand part of the Bill.