Clause 148 - Effect of undertakings under section 146

Enterprise Bill – in a Public Bill Committee am 12:30 pm ar 7 Mai 2002.

Danfonwch hysbysiad imi am ddadleuon fel hyn

Photo of Nigel Waterson Nigel Waterson Ceidwadwyr, Eastbourne 12:30, 7 Mai 2002

I beg to move amendment No. 311, in page 108, line 1, leave out

`or needs to be varied or superseded'.

"false or misleading in a material respect".

The whole basis of accepting that undertaking would be negated. Again, we can see the force in that.

With all due respect to the draftsmen, it is the weasel words

"or needs to be varied or superseded"

in subsection (2)(a) that are objectionable. The amendment would remove them, which would limit the OFT's powers to make further investigation references if it had received undertakings that had been complied with. Subject to the obvious

exceptions that I mentioned, if an undertaking has been offered, discussed and accepted on those terms, the people offering it should feel reasonably certain that they will not face a further market investigation reference unless they are in some way to blame. Clear examples would be breaches of undertaking or when false information had been provided that had formed the basis of the willingness to accept the undertaking in the first place.

I cannot see how the words

"or needs to be varied or superseded"

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

I am delighted to inform the hon. Gentleman that he is still on a winning streak, and that the conspiracy view of history is still wrong. I am happy to accept the amendment tabled in his name and that of other Opposition Members.

The wording of clause 148 has come directly from section 56D of the Fair Trading Act 1973, but on further reflection we cannot see any reason to retain it. It weakens the case for giving undertakings, as there is effectively no protection from reference during the supposed quiet period. Twelve months is not a long time in the context of market investigations, so the OFT would not have long to wait, even if it changed its mind after agreeing to the undertakings. I am therefore content to accept the amendment.

Amendment agreed to.

Clause 148, as amended, ordered to stand part of the Bill.