Clause 80 - Final orders

Enterprise Bill – in a Public Bill Committee am 11:15 am ar 1 Mai 2002.

Danfonwch hysbysiad imi am ddadleuon fel hyn

Photo of Nigel Waterson Nigel Waterson Ceidwadwyr, Eastbourne 11:15, 1 Mai 2002

I beg to move amendment No. 261, in page 58, line 29, leave out subsection (2) and insert—

`(2) The Commission may make such order as it considers to be reasonable and practicable

(i) to remedy, mitigate or prevent the substantial lessening of competition concerned; and

(ii) to remedy, mitigate or prevent any adverse effects which have resulted from, or may be expected to result from, the substantial lessening of competition.'.

The objective as set out in clause 78, for example, is to obtain voluntary undertakings where possible. That is clearly the policy: to deal with matters in a rather more consensual way. It is not limited by schedule 7 and is therefore entirely flexible. That is in the interest of both sides of the equation. A company may decline to give an undertaking when it knows that no equivalent power is available under schedule 7.

It is fair to say that there have been occasions when the OFT found a remedy could not be imposed. The Competition Commission talked about potential remedies at the end of its investigation and framed its report accordingly. The amendment reflects the

Photo of Douglas Alexander Douglas Alexander Minister of State (e-Commerce & Competitiveness)

The amendment would have two effects. First, it would clarify that orders may be made only with a view to remedy, mitigate or prevent the substantial lessening of competition or any adverse effects resulting. Such orders should be reasonable or practical. Secondly, it would remove the reference to orders containing only remedies set out in schedule 7 for such supplementary consequential or incidental provision as is necessary.

With regard to the first effect—I will come on to the points that the hon. Gentleman made thereafter—I should clarify that the current wording in subsection (1) requires the Commission to act "in accordance with section 39" when making an order. Clause 39(2) specifies exactly what is set out in the amendment, namely that the Commission shall take such action under clause 80 as it considers reasonable and practicable to remedy, mitigate or prevent the substantial lessening of competition concerned or any adverse effects arising. We would therefore argue that there is no need for the same words to be written out in full in clause 80.

With regard to the second effect, the deletion of the reference to schedule 7, I wonder whether that was the hon. Gentleman's intention. I sense from his remarks that it was. That would allow the Competition Commission complete discretion, subject to their being reasonable and practical, in the remedies that they included in any final order. That would provide considerably more flexibility than the Secretary of State has at present, when final orders can include only remedies listed in schedule 8 of the Fair Trading Act.

We see the new schedule 7, which largely replicates the former schedule, as an important check on the power of the Competition Commission and want to retain subsection (2) of the clause as it stands. In light of the assurances that I have provided to the Committee, I hope that the hon. Gentleman will withdraw the amendment.

Photo of Nigel Waterson Nigel Waterson Ceidwadwyr, Eastbourne

I am grateful to the Minister for that explanation. I beg to ask leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Clause 80 ordered to stand part of the Bill.