Enterprise Bill

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Miss Johnson: Our advice is that that would not be appropriate, so a non-departmental public body is required to act as the employer of the CAT staff.

Mr. Lansley: The Under-Secretary may believe that it is appropriate or inappropriate, but she wrote to us to say that the CAT is unable to employ its own staff. Am I right in thinking that the CAT as a judicial body is unable to employ its own staff? Rather than the complex procedure of having the Competition Service, would it not be simpler for the CAT to be serviced by staff from somewhere such as the Lord Chancellor's Department?

Miss Johnson: The CAT is unable to employ its own staff and needs a separate legal entity. By preserving the Competition Service, we will preserve the current level of independence for the tribunal. The Competition Service plays the role of the Competition Commission in the current set up.

Mr. Waterson: Like my hon. Friend the Member for South Cambridgeshire, I am trying to be helpful. However, this question might seem simplistic in the context of the Bill. Why is it impossible for the CAT to be like any other court and be serviced by the Court Service? It is wholly independent, funded ultimately by the taxpayer and does a perfectly reasonable job—although not always as good as it should—in running the nuts and bolts and pay and rations side of the court system.

Miss Johnson: First, it is not normally the case for tribunals to employ staff because of the difficulty of identifying who is a party to a contract. Furthermore, the tribunal only exists when it is constituted for a hearing. The hon. Member for South Cambridgeshire asked who could have provided the facility separate from the tribunals. The Lord Chancellor's Department could have done that, but it has not expressed any interest in doing so.

We believe that the arrangements are appropriate. They ensure the independence of the Competition Appeal Tribunal, and that it is supported by the right kind of separate legal entity to deal with the employment of staff and other relevant issues.

Mr. Waterson: I was not intending to rise on this issue, but the Under-Secretary provokes me. She may be saying that we would not have started from here, but if we had started with a blank sheet, surely there would have been a different result? I can see the sense in keeping the bodies separate, but did it occur to anyone that this was a great opportunity to return to first principles and to decide how to start from scratch?

The way to do that is as for every other court. The mechanics of running a court—paying the clerks, hiring the officers and paying the judges or members of

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the tribunal—do not vary much, whether it is the county courts, the High Court, the Court of Appeal or indeed the House of Lords. That is why there is a Court Service. So why do we need to reinvent the wheel?

Given that the Under-Secretary is in charge of the Bill, I found disturbing her plaintive comment that the Lord Chancellor's Department had not expressed any interest in running the Competition Appeal Tribunal.

Mr. Lansley: Does my hon. Friend recall that the reduction in the number of non-departmental public bodies is regarded as an objective in itself? One of the consequences of the proposed change is that an additional body corporate, the Competition Service, has to be created, although it could be avoided. It seems that by its nature this additional body will create an additional non-departmental public body; an additional quango, with all that tends to flow from that.

Mr. Waterson: Absolutely. My hon. Friend makes a telling point. It will be a special quango because it will have only one function; to run this small section of the judiciary, the highly specialised Competition Appeal Tribunal. I do not know how many cases the Government estimate the tribunal might have to deal with in a year, but it will be a tiny fraction of those flowing through the main court system. Why invent this nice little quango, which I presume will recruit people who already work for the Court Service who already know how to run a court? It does not matter whether the tribunal administers competition justice or commercial justice in the High Court or commercial court, because the basic principles of running a tribunal or court are much the same. I do not know who runs the industrial tribunals, but I suspect that, ultimately, it is the Court Service.

I was on the point of expressing surprise that the Lord Chancellor's Department did not express any interest in running the tribunal. Is this because it has no confidence in the tribunal as a body, or because the Department thinks it is a waste of public money and will not work? Has anyone there been asked? It is not really a matter for anyone so elevated as the Lord Chancellor, but for the Court Service. These are the people who should be asked; they know how to run things. They do not always do so beyond criticism. As Members of Parliament, we always become slightly involved where there are problems of listing cases; although, of course, we cannot be involved in the merits. Surely the Court Service should be doing this, and not some brand new quango—as my hon. Friend the Member for South Cambridgeshire points out—that has to be started from scratch.

Miss Johnson: I tried to answer that question in response to the hon. Member for South Cambridgeshire. In essence, he was making the same point as the hon. Member for Eastbourne. The only additional costs specific to the Competition Service structure are for a non-appointed member. The rest of the leadership team—namely the president of the CAT and the registrar—are not new people. They are currently employed by the Competition Commission and will transfer to the Competition Service. Court

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staff will not be employed, as hon. Members suggested, in relation to the possible role of the Lord Chancellor's Department in all of this.

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We believe that this provides the right degree of independence, sensibly and pragmatically, recognising the fact that we need to provide a separate body to deal with this to allow the tribunal to carry on its work in a fully independent manner. I am at a loss as to why Opposition Members are getting so excited about this point. It is a very small point.

Mr. Lansley: We are not that excited.

Miss Johnson: I got a different impression. This is a small point. We are meeting the need for independence.

Amendment agreed to.

Amendments made: No. 342, in page 128, line 13, leave out

    'Commission and the Tribunal of their'

and insert 'Tribunal of its'.

No. 343, in page 128, line 17, leave out 'the Commission and'—[Miss Melanie Johnson.]

Mr. Ian Pearson (Dudley, South): On a point of order, Mr. Beard, will the motion to transfer clause 175 be discussed before we approve the clause or afterwards?

The Chairman: I am advised that it is to follow.

Mr. Pearson: I am obliged, Mr. Beard. I did not want to lose the clause.

Clause 175, as amended, ordered to stand part of the Bill.


    That clause 175 be transferred to end of line 9 on page 6—[Miss Melanie Johnson.]

Schedule 10

The Competition Service

Amendment made: No. 345, in page 228, line 27, leave out paragraph 1 and insert—

    '1 (1) The Service shall consist of—

    (a) the President of the Competition Appeal Tribunal;

    (b) the Registrar of the Competition Appeal Tribunal; and

    (c) one or more appointed members.

    (2) An appointed member shall be appointed by the Secretary of State after consulting the President.'.—[Miss Melanie Johnson.]

Mr. Waterson: I beg to move amendment No. 329, in page 228, line 34, at end insert—

    '(3) The appointed members must include members who have business as well as competition expertise.'.

I am slightly lost, Mr. Beard. Did schedule 10 whiz past me? I gather that it may now be called something else.

The amendment is designed to amend schedule 10—I think. It is a CBI concern—we thoroughly support it—to stipulate that the Competition Service must comprise members with business as well as

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competition experience. The Under-Secretary suggested, although I may be misquoting her, that they were looking for people with competition experience to staff the service. We can agree with that, up to a point. However, at least some of them should also have wider experience of the business world. We do not want people who have simply been civil servants engaged in competition matters, looking at things from their end of the telescope. We want people who have experience of businesses that deal with competition law, particularly with the sorts of inquiries and investigations that are under debate. In a nutshell, that is the purport of the amendment, which I commend to the Committee.

Mr. Djanogly: I have a general question about the sort of person who is to be employed by the Competition Service. Is it the intention that they will be civil servants or secondees from the private sector, as they are on the Takeover Panel?

Miss Johnson: The Government do not support amendment No. 329 because it focuses exclusively on business. I am conscious of the fact that the amendment was tabled before Committee Members had a chance to see our changes, for which I apologise. I hope that, because the Competition Service's role has been significantly reduced solely to that of supporting the Competition Appeal Tribunal, the hon. Gentleman will consider withdrawing his amendment.

In respect of appointed members, there is a wide range of individuals who could usefully contribute something to the running of the service. As the amendment suggests, a business person might be able to add value, which I do not dispute. Equally, a member of the legal profession could contribute, given that the body is quasi-judicial. We may even consider appointing an existing member of the tribunal if one had an interest in playing a managerial role. In answer to the hon. Member for Huntingdon, people could come from a variety of backgrounds. Given the range of good candidates, we are reluctant to limit in statute the sorts of people eligible to apply.

As a result of amendments, the Competition Service will consist only of a president, a registrar and one or more appointed members, as I mentioned in earlier discussions. I hope that Opposition Members recognise the value of what could be contributed by a member of the legal profession to the body.

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