Clause 69 - Power of access

Part of Digital Markets, Competition and Consumers Bill – in a Public Bill Committee am 12:15 pm ar 22 Mehefin 2023.

Danfonwch hysbysiad imi am ddadleuon fel hyn

Photo of Alex Davies-Jones Alex Davies-Jones Shadow Minister (Digital, Culture, Media and Sport), Shadow Minister (Tech, Gambling and the Digital Economy) 12:15, 22 Mehefin 2023

I was champing at the bit to talk about these clauses. However, I will keep my comments brief because much of Labour’s thoughts align with our thoughts on previous clauses.

Clause 70 gives the CMA the power to require any individual to attend an interview and answer questions for the purposes of a digital markets investigation. That is consistent with the amendments to section 26A of the Competition Act 1998. We welcome those, so it is only right that the powers appear in this legislation, too. These are basic powers and the clause is fairly procedural. The CMA must have the power to give notice to any individual with information relevant to a digital markets investigation, requiring them to answer relevant questions at a place or in a manner specified in the notice. That is fundamental for an empowered regulator. We support the approach, so we have not sought to amend the clause at this stage. We also support the intentions of clause 71, and we believe that the approach is fair and reasonable. The clause is important for clarity. We welcome its inclusion in the Bill and we have not sought to amend it at this stage.

Turning to clause 72, it is right and proper that the CMA must have reasonable grounds to suspect that information relevant to the breach investigation can be accessed from or on the premises. We support that common- sense approach. The provisions are in line with those for other regimes, and will be important in ensuring that if the CMA is required take action for the purposes of a breach investigation, it can do so in a timely and effective manner. We support the clause and have not sought to amend it.

We also support the intentions of clause 73, which gives the CMA the power to enter business and domestic premises under a warrant, without notice and using reasonable force, for the purposes of a breach investigation. Again, the CMA has powers of entry under a warrant through sections 28 and 28A of the Competition Act 1998. It will come as no surprise, given that we support provisions for the CMA to act without a warrant, that we agree that it should be able to act with one. We value the clarification that the CMA must prove that there are reasonable grounds to act. If it has to, it can call on individuals who have expertise that is not available in the CMA but is required if the terms of the warrant are to be fully carried out. That will allow the CMA to act rapidly, which, given the level of these breaches, is vital. We therefore support this clause standing part of the Bill.

Clause 74 sets out the supplementary requirements to the CMA’s power to enter premises under a warrant. We welcome the transparency afforded by subsection (1), and the clarification that although the CMA cannot enter premises outside the United Kingdom, as outlined in subsection (6), it can access information regardless of where it is physically stored. That is an important point, given the nature of SMS firms and their global holdings. For those reasons, Labour is happy to support the clause standing part of the Bill.

Clause 75 makes necessary amendments to a range of sections of the Criminal and Justice and Police Act 2001 to enable the CMA to seize information and take copies of, or extracts from, information when exercising its power under clause 73 to enter business and domestic premises with a warrant. It is a practical clause that aligns with the CMA’s power to seize documents from business premises under section 28 of the Competition Act 1998. We therefore believe that the clause should stand part of the Bill.

Clause 76 requires the CMA to follow the rules of the High Court, the Court of Session or the CAT when making an application. We see it as a natural consequential clause and will therefore support it.