Clause 67 - Power to require information

Digital Markets, Competition and Consumers Bill – in a Public Bill Committee am 12:00 pm ar 22 Mehefin 2023.

Danfonwch hysbysiad imi am ddadleuon fel hyn

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

Photo of Philip Hollobone Philip Hollobone Ceidwadwyr, Kettering

With this it will be convenient to discuss clause 68 stand part.

Photo of Paul Scully Paul Scully Parliamentary Under Secretary of State (Department for Science, Innovation and Technology)

Clearly the DMU needs to have access to the correct information to ensure its work is evidence-based. Clause 67 allows the DMU to request information it needs to either exercise, or decide whether to exercise, any of its digital markets functions. That includes information in any form, such as data, internal documents and forecasts. The clause also includes new powers to investigate the outputs of algorithms by requiring SMS firms to generate information and to carry out tests and demonstrations of technical processes.

Clause 68 allows the DMU to require that an SMS firm names a senior manager to be responsible for ensuring that the firm complies with a specific information request. The DMU will be able to impose a penalty on the named senior manager where they have failed, without reasonable excuse, to prevent the SMS firm from failing to comply with the request for information. Personal liability will help to embed a culture of compliance within strategic market status firms.

Photo of Alex Davies-Jones Alex Davies-Jones Shadow Minister (Digital, Culture, Media and Sport), Shadow Minister (Tech, Gambling and the Digital Economy)

Clause 67 is an important starting point as it gives the CMA powers to require the provision of information from designated undertakings and any other person believed to hold material needed for it to operate the regime. That includes any information in any form, which might include data, correspondence, forecasts and estimates.

We welcome the clarity that the CMA will be able to specify the format in which the information must be provided. That is a very important point that we feel will be critical to ensuring timely responses from designated undertakings. We have seen the dangers of what can happen when we allow these big firms to overwhelm with the provision of data in complex formats and in incredible quantities in legal proceedings around online safety, and we do not want to see the same negative consequences here.

We welcome subsection (4), which, importantly, includes provisions that will enable the CMA to compel evidence collection by requiring a person to collect and retain information that it may not otherwise collect and retain. In addition, subsection (7) specifies that the CMA can require the recipient of an information notice to give the CMA information, either in physical or electronic form, which is located outside the UK. That is an important point worth touching on.

We know that these SMS firms have a global reach. We do not want to be in a position whereby the CMA cannot access information just because it is held overseas. This is a sensible and crucial clause to ensure the CMA has the appropriate teeth and power to act when it needs to.

We are also pleased to see clause 68 included in the Bill, which references a point that Labour have repeatedly called for in other legislation. Without these provisions and the ability to name an individual, big companies will typically not take their responsibilities seriously. We therefore welcome confirmation that a penalty may be imposed on a named senior manager of a designated undertaking that fails to comply with an information notice—a point we will address later, when we discuss clause 85.

Ultimately, we feel that the provisions are in line with other regulated sectors, principally financial services, where regulation imposes specific duties on directors and senior management of financial institutions, and those responsible individuals face repercussions if they do not comply.

I feel we have lots to learn here from looking to other regulated industries. For example, in financial services regulation, the Financial Conduct Authority uses a range of personal accountability regimes, including the senior managers and certification regime, which is an overarching framework for all staff in financial services industries. The regime aims to

“encourage a culture of staff at all levels taking personal responsibility for their actions and make sure firms and staff clearly understand and can demonstrate where responsibility lies”.

If only we could have that approach to other legislation on online safety. We therefore support clause 68—we see it as standard—and have not sought to amend it at this stage.

Question put and agreed to.

Clause 67 accordingly ordered to stand part of the Bill.

Clause 68 ordered to stand part of the Bill.