Enterprise Bill

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Schedule 8, as amended, agreed to.

Clause 161 ordered to stand part of the Bill.

Clause 162

General information duties

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

Mr. Waterson: I have another brief point, which pertains to subsection (2). It is right, practical and necessary that the OFT gives the commission any information in its possession which the commission may reasonably require, as set out in subsection (1)(a), and any other assistance. I am slightly baffled about subsection (2), which seems to assume that the

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commission will not be the best judge of the information that it needs to receive from the OFT, and that the OFT may force on the commission information that it does not want. I am all in favour of belt and braces in drafting, but that seems to be a subsection too far. The commission is best placed to decide what information it needs. It beggars belief that the OFT would want to say, "You should have asked for the following information, so here it is." Can the Under-Secretary explain?

Miss Johnson: The explanation is simple. The Competition Commission will not necessarily know what information the OFT has. The OFT has a duty to give to the Secretary of State or an appropriate Minister all the information it has that has been requested and which the OFT believes is appropriate. The provision may be needed when the Secretary of State is considering referral of a market to the Competition Commission, and the OFT may have information that has led it to conclude that a market reference is unnecessary. The OFT should then be able to share that information with the Secretary of State, but the Competition Commission will not necessarily know what the OFT has.

Clause 162 ordered to stand part of the Bill.

Clause 163

Advice and information: Part 4

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

Mr. Djanogly: The clause returns to a matter that was discussed earlier under clause 123. It would be helpful if the Under-Secretary gave an update on the publication of general advice. When the matter was last discussed, Opposition Members were concerned that the guidance had not been published with the Bill so that the Committee could consider the situation in the round. It would be helpful if the Under-Secretary updated the Committee on the progress of the guidance.

Miss Johnson: Advice and information will be available before commencement of the market provisions in the Bill—before 1 May 2003. The OFT and the Competition Commission will want to publish their guidance four months before the new regime is brought into force because that is in line with Government best practice. In addition, both authorities intend to consult on the guidance material. I hope that that reassures the hon. Gentleman.

Mr. Djanogly: I thank the Under-Secretary, but due to the speed at which she read her brief, I could not go through the dates in my head. Will the guidance be available before Third Reading?

Miss Johnson: No, it will not. I said that it would be available before 1 May 2003. I cannot prejudice the time scales of the House and another place, but I do not believe that it will be available before Third Reading.

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Mr. Djanogly: Does the Under-Secretary not believe that it would be appropriate and helpful to all concerned if the Committee or the House were able to see the guidance before Third Reading, so that we could consider the nitty-gritty implications before the Bill goes to another place?

Miss Johnson: There may be issues about consulting in advance of Royal Assent and making an assumption about the passage of the Bill. I hope that it will reach the statute book, but I cannot say that for the reasons given. There will be appropriate

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consultation, it will be published and a proper timetable will be adopted which will enable people to know exactly what is envisaged before commencement of the market provisions. That meets the needs of the case.

It being One o'clock, The Chairman adjourned the Committee without Question put, pursuant to the Standing Order.

        Adjourned till this day at half-past Four o'clock.

The following Members attended the Committee:

Conway, Mr. Derek (Chairman)
Atkins, Charlotte
Barnes, Mr.
Borrow, Mr.
Brown, Mr. Russell
Burnham, Andy
Cable, Dr.
Campbell, Mrs. Anne
Carmichael, Mr.
Djanogly, Mr.
Field, Mr. Mark
Hendry, Mr.
Irranca-Davies, Huw
Johnson, Miss
Lansley, Mr.
McWalter, Mr.
Pearson, Mr.
Purchase, Mr.
Thomas, Mr. Gareth R.
Waterson, Mr.

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