Enterprise Bill

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Mr. Waterson: I associate myself with most of the Under-Secretary's remarks. I thank you, Mr. Conway, and your fellow Chairman—it has been interesting to see the different styles that you have brought to the task—and the staff, the police, the Hansard reporters and, in particular, the Clerks who have had to deal with shoals and shoals of amendments and new clauses, and the officials. I have never seen so many officials involved in a Bill. The DTI must have been a pretty empty place during the Committee stage of the Bill.

Miss Johnson: I am grateful for that notion of the scale of the DTI.

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10.30 am

Mr. Nigel Waterson (Eastbourne): It has been interesting to see so many hands put to work on the Bill. We have had a friendly and constructive Committee. It has been not easy to rattle through a Bill of 269 clauses and 26 schedules in the time allotted, but we have done our best. As the Under-Secretary kindly mentioned, we tabled a great number of amendments and new clauses.

There have been some interesting and colourful members of the Committee, not all of whom are here today. The hon. Member for North-East Derbyshire (Mr. Barnes), for one, took us back to the days of people such as G.D.H. Cole. It was the first time I heard that name since leaving university. He brought his distinctive starting point to many arguments in the Committee, although he may not have done his chances much good of being appointed to many more such Committees.

The hon. Member for Staffordshire, Moorlands (Charlotte Atkins) once wrote a book called ''How to Select or Reselect Your MP'', which strikes me as an interesting title. She and I have an interesting link, in that she contested my seat in the 1990 by-election.

The hon. Member for South Ribble made some interesting contributions. He was president of the Society of Clerks at one time, and knows his way around the drafting of documents. Looking at the details that I obtained from various websites, I was impressed to discover that among the many accomplishments of the hon. Member for Cambridge (Mrs. Campbell), she is director of the Welding Institute. That is not something that arose during our discussions.

I can inform hon. Members who are fascinated by the name of the hon. Member for Ogmore (Huw Irranca-Davies)—whose career has got off to a racing start by being appointed to this Committee—that it derives from his wife being from Sardinia. The name did not strike me as being very Welsh. He may be interested to know that the Welsh Labour website said that he was the party's surprise choice for the seat; he may want to have that amended.

We have been top-heavy with philosophers, including the hon. Member for Southport, who taught philosophy, and the hon. Member for Hemel Hempstead (Mr. McWalter), who co-edited something called ''Kant and His Influence.'' He also supports a charity called Philosophy in Britain, which is presumably for philosophers down on their luck who need the price of a cup of coffee or the next edition of Kant's collected works.

On the Liberal Democrat Benches, we have had the pleasure of seeing all three Liberal Democrat tendencies represented. We have heard pro-business and anti-business arguments, and the third category of argument—always important with the Liberal Democrats—which says, ''I haven't a clue, but what do you think?'' All those tendencies have been on display during the Committee. The leading member of their Front-Bench team, the hon. Member for Twickenham, lists ballroom and Latin dancing in his biography. He has obviously enjoyed a long personal

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odyssey, because at one time he was special adviser to the late John Smith when he was shadow Secretary of State for Trade and Industry. Like me, he has had a long involvement with the House.

The hon. Member for Orkney and Shetland (Mr. Carmichael) made many interesting contributions, and has been assiduous in the Committee. He was educated at Islay high school, so he must have some knowledge and interest in Scotch malt whisky.

Our deliberations have been too fast, but, for the most part, constructive. Some clauses and amendments have not been debated at all, under the guillotine procedure, so unresolved issues remain to which we look forward to returning on Report.

Dr. Cable: I add my thanks to you, Mr. Conway, and to the other Chairman, to the officers who have helped us and to the Committee. In my five years in the House, I have served on several Committees. All too often, they are characterised by filibustering and time-wasting by the Opposition and Ministers who do not listen on the Government Benches. In this case, although the discussions have sometimes been long,

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most criticisms have been constructive and businesslike and the Under-Secretary has shown a commendable ability to listen, respond and debate points, creating a good atmosphere.

I had a brief moment of doubt when, a few days ago, I saw the hon. Member for Huntingdon (Mr. Djanogly) staggering along the corridor with large boxes in his arms. I briefly wondered whether they contained his speaking notes on the bankruptcy clauses. However, apart from that brief passage, I have no reservations about the way in which the Committee has conducted itself.

Some of us, including the hon. Member for Eastbourne and I, have unfinished business. We remain unhappy with some elements of the Bill, especially the gaping hole in the area of consumer protection. However, we may return to those issues on Report and in the other place.

Question put and agreed to.

Bill, as amended, to be reported.

Committee rose at twenty-six minutes to Eleven o'clock.

The following Members attended the Committee:
Conway, Mr. Derek (Chairman)
Borrow, Mr.
Brown, Mr. Russell
Cable, Dr.
Djanogly, Mr.
Hendry, Mr.
Irranca-Davies, Huw
Johnson, Miss Melanie
McWalter, Mr.
Pearson, Mr.
Pugh, Dr.
Purchase, Mr.
Thomas, Mr. Gareth R.
Waterson, Mr.

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