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 jobalthough not always as good as it shouldin 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 courtpaying the clerks, hiring the officers and paying the judges or members of
Column Number: 516the tribunaldo 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 quangoas my hon. Friend the Member for South Cambridgeshire points outthat 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 teamnamely the president of the CAT and the registrarare not new people. They are currently employed by the Competition Commission and will transfer to the Competition Service. Court
Column Number: 517staff will not be employed, as hon. Members suggested, in relation to the possible role of the Lord Chancellor's Department in all of this.
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
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.
|©Parliamentary copyright 2002||Prepared 7 May 2002|