Enterprise Bill

– in a Public Bill Committee am 10:45 am ar 1 Mai 2002.

Danfonwch hysbysiad imi am ddadleuon fel hyn


[Mr. Nigel Beard in the Chair]

Photo of Douglas Alexander Douglas Alexander Minister of State (e-Commerce & Competitiveness) 10:30, 1 Mai 2002

I beg to move,

That the Order of the Committee [16th April] relating to programming be amended as follows:—

for paragraphs (4) and (5) there is substituted—

`(4) the proceedings on Clauses 20 to 66, Schedule 5, Clauses 67 to 81, Schedule 6, Clause 82, Schedule 7, Clauses 83 to 86, Schedule 9, Clauses 87 to 160, Schedule 8, Clauses 161 to 174, Clause 199, Clause 175, Schedule 10, Clauses 176 and 177, Schedule 11, Clauses 178, Schedule12, Clause 12, Schedule 2, Clauses 13 and 14, Schedule 3, Clause 15, Clause 19, Schedule 4, Clauses 227 and 228, Schedule 14, Clauses 229 to 231, Schedule15 and Clauses 232 to 238 shall (so far as not previously concluded) be brought to a conclusion at 7p.m on Tuesday 7th May;';

in paragraph (6), for `5 p.m. on Thursday 9th May', there is substituted `7 p.m. on Tuesday 14th May'; in paragraph (7), for `7 p.m. on Tuesday 14th May' there is substituted `5 p.m. on Thursday 16th May'.

We have agreed to extend the Committee's proceedings by providing an additional two sittings, which will allow for the consideration of the remaining mergers and market investigation clauses. The motion removes the knives that would have fallen today at 1 pm and 7 pm, so as to conclude that portion of the Bill by Tuesday.

Photo of Nigel Waterson Nigel Waterson Ceidwadwyr, Eastbourne

I welcome the Minister to the Committee. I am not sure that the Under-Secretary agreed that all our debates were focused and constructive, but we think that they were.

I am grateful to the Government for reconvening the Programming Sub-Committee this morning. It was a helpful initiative, but they brought that situation on themselves. We have been saying from the outset that the Bill needed a longer Committee stage than it had been given, and even a further day's sittings do not do it justice. We tried to press our views on the Government on how much time we should spend on each part of the Bill, but the usual channels and the Government were not remotely interested, so we have got into this mess.

In part, the position is remediable by the motion: we will be able to do more justice to the clauses under

  debate. However, nothing can bring back the clauses on consumer protection, which were simply not debated because of the knife in the programme resolution, so considerable damage has already been done. Many consumers and consumer organisations will be puzzled and distressed that we were not able to debate those provisions and others in the detail that they would have liked.

We readily agreed to the proposal at the Programming Sub-Committee because it seemed the sensible thing to do at this moment of the Committee's history. However, we put down a marker on the subject of insolvency, which is in the final part of the Bill. No massively important party political issues relate to insolvency, but there is a mass of technical, legal detail on which we have received a large number of proposed amendments and a great deal of briefing from a range of organisations, which were apparently consulted before the Bill was published. I am not trying to put the fear of God into the Minister, I am just saying that we have a lot to get through. I put down the marker that problems may arise again when we reach the subject of insolvency. I hope that the Government will be ready to remedy them should they arise. Only on that basis are we happy to agree to the motion.

Photo of Ian Pearson Ian Pearson Assistant Whip

I am glad that the Opposition at least recognise that the Government have been flexible to a degree by altering the business to be considered today. I do not want to cover old ground, but it is a bit rich for Opposition Members to criticise the Committee for not considering all the consumer protection clauses. We had 16 hours 20 minutes of debate before the first knife fell on proceedings. Some 36 clauses were covered and 24 clauses were not covered, which, it is fair to say, was due to the Opposition not managing their time very well. Notwithstanding our feeling that they spent an awful lot of time on clause 20 and could have used their time better, we decided that we wanted to offer the extra sittings to allow more effective consideration of the Bill.

We are being reasonable and are prepared to look again at the matter if we find that the insolvency provisions are going to take longer to consider than has been allocated. Four full sittings have been allocated to the insolvency provisions, which is reasonable. We think that the original Programming Sub-Committee resolution was also reasonable, but we are prepared to be flexible and look at things to ensure good and effective consideration of the Bill.

Question put and agreed to.

Clause 66 ordered to stand part of the Bill.

Schedule 5 agreed to.

Clause 67 ordered to stand part of the Bill.