Clause 197 - Power to modify schedule 7

Enterprise Bill – in a Public Bill Committee am 5:45 pm ar 7 Mai 2002.

Danfonwch hysbysiad imi am ddadleuon fel hyn

Question proposed, That the clause stand part of the Bill.

Photo of Nigel Waterson Nigel Waterson Ceidwadwyr, Eastbourne

Again, there is an echo of something that we have debated before. We object in principle to the Secretary of State's having the power to modify by statutory instrument schedule 7. It contains some important provisions, even if they are tucked away in a schedule. We make no complaint about that, but if there are significant changes to what is set out in the schedule, due consideration should be given to them at all stages by the House. We have made a similar point before, and I do not wish to labour it, but I should like the Under-Secretary to justify why the Secretary of State should have that power.

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

Through the work of the Committee, we are trying to ensure that the Bill will stand the test of time. It is therefore important that the list of remedies can be amended over time to reflect market developments. One example is that we have changed the list to allow authorities to specify how information should be published. They could specify that it should be published on the internet, which is obviously a new development since 1973. There may be similar developments in future.

To reassure the hon. Gentleman, I point out that a modification requires an affirmative resolution of both Houses of Parliament. The provision is necessary, however, to provide the right degree of flexibility in the legislation to reflect changes and market developments that might take place over a considerable time.

Question put and agreed to.

Clause 197 ordered to stand part of the Bill.

Photo of Nigel Waterson Nigel Waterson Ceidwadwyr, Eastbourne

The hon. Gentleman makes a fair point, but I have two comments in response. First, the ground is shifting under us with regard to what local authorities are or are not allowed to do now or in future, and the basis on which they will be able to do things and charge for them. Secondly, all that we are setting out is the possibility of people being involved in the provisions.

At the end of the day, there still has to be evidence of anti-competitive activity and a prima facie case for a full investigation. As I said initially, it seems extremely unlikely that any of the bodies that we are talking about would get involved in such a situation. However, it would be wrong for the definition, or certainly the Under-Secretary's interpretation of it, to exclude them from an investigation if they were engaged in prima facie anti-competitive activity. As I said, her introduction of the expression ''on a commercial basis'', which is not reflected in the clause, has muddied the waters, but we have debated the issue long enough.

Photo of Vincent Cable Vincent Cable Shadow Spokesperson (Trade and Industry), Liberal Democrat Spokesperson (Trade and Industry)

I am still a little baffled as to what precisely ''on a commercial basis'' means. We know that some public entities, such as the Export Credits Guarantee Department, operate on a commercial basis, which means covering their costs. Others, such as London Transport, also operate on a commercial basis, but have to earn a 6 per cent. return on capital. The phrase is used in a varied way in the public sector, and the precision that the Under-Secretary seeks in the clause is still not there. However, I would be happy for the amendment to be withdrawn.

Photo of Nigel Waterson Nigel Waterson Ceidwadwyr, Eastbourne

I beg to ask leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Clause 173 ordered to stand part of the Bill.

Clause 174 ordered to stand part of the Bill.