Clause 103 - Further publicity requirements

Enterprise Bill – in a Public Bill Committee am 12:15 pm ar 1 Mai 2002.

Danfonwch hysbysiad imi am ddadleuon fel hyn

Photo of Mark Field Mark Field Ceidwadwyr, Cities of London and Westminster 12:15, 1 Mai 2002

I beg to move amendment No. 288, in page 74, line 7, at end insert—

`(4A) In performing any function pursuant to subsections (1), (2) or (3) to publish the result of any action taken by that person, the person shall not disclose any information which might significantly harm the legitimate business interests of another.'.

Clause 103 and the clauses that surround it obviously contain some important safeguards on publicity requirements. Clause 103 contains a list of the matters that need to be published by the Competition Commission, the OFT or the Secretary of State in making a merger reference. We have obviously been in touch with the Confederation of British Industry, which suggested such an amendment. Under clause 103(4), in respect of substantive publications, the authority in question needs to publish its reasons for the action or decision concerned. As a result, on occasion confidential information may be put into play.

We can all appreciate that it is an integral part of the entire process that on occasion there will be confidential information that must remain in confidence under all circumstances. As a result, the amendment simply ties in with clause 231, which effectively states that there should be a specific obligation to ensure that confidential information is protected. We are therefore using wording that is akin to that which appears later in the Bill. We felt that we should replicate that wording by using the phrase

"significantly harm the legitimate business interests".

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

I fear that I may disappoint the hon. Gentleman, but I shall try to clarify our thinking.

The amendment would alter the test that authorities will consider when publishing information. The Bill includes a provision to ensure that confidential information is adequately protected, which has already been discussed in Committee. The amendment would replace the provision in clause 235 with the more restrictive test, as has been outlined in Committee. It would undermine the ability of the OFT, the Competition Commission and the Secretary of State to take sensible decisions on the publication of merger information.

We have proposed a test for the disclosure of information that will apply to all merger information. Clause 235 sets out a test that ensures that authorities have regard to the need to publish information to fulfil statutory functions, and to the need to exclude information that might cause significant harm. That is an appropriate test and consistent with the thinking behind the Bill. I want to avoid an alternative, higher test that would be set by the amendment.

Photo of Mark Field Mark Field Ceidwadwyr, Cities of London and Westminster

I am not entirely satisfied because the nature of the confidential information requires a higher test than the Government have in mind. However, we want to discuss other clauses, so I shall not continue. As my hon. Friend the Member for Huntingdon said, we will not reach clause 235, so it is worth highlighting it at this juncture even though

the amendment may not be pressed. We may have to return to this sensitive issue on Report. I beg to ask leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Mr. Alexander:I beg to move amendment No. 270, in page 74, leave out lines 13 to 16.

Photo of Mr Nigel Beard Mr Nigel Beard Llafur, Bexleyheath and Crayford

With this it will be convenient to take Government amendment No. 272.

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

The amendments ensure that the duty to give reasons applies to enforcement action taken under the merger and markets regime. We have provided for authorities to give reasons for decisions to ensure that there is greater transparency throughout the regime.

Amendment agreed to.

Clause 103, as amended, ordered to stand part of the Bill.