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Lord Peston: Before everybody becomes too helpful and in total agreement, perhaps I may interface a certain tone of dissent. I am particularly intrigued by Amendment No. 95. Perhaps the noble Lord, Lord Kingsland, will think back to Wealth of Nations and reflect on Adam Smith's remarks that people of any trade seldom meet together essentially without a view to exploiting the consumer. Those were not Adam Smith's words--I cannot remember the precise wording--but that is broadly what this is all about. The noble Lord might also like to think about the so-called "Gary dinners", which were the essence of the American steel cartel. Members of the firms met together for dinner and took it in turn to raise prices--one firm would raise its prices one month while another would raise its prices the next month, and so on.

It is because we are trying to deal with such behaviour from cartels--let alone with the points raised by my noble friend the Minister about the destruction of documents--that I do not believe that we should put on the face of the Bill wording which would restrict the director-general's ability to look into such matters. He cannot very well turn up and say, "I am investigating the fact that you have all been having dinner together". I suspect that his investigation will be based on several things which indicate the operation of a cartel; but that is so obvious that I wonder why it has to be stated on the face of the Bill.

I was glad to hear that my noble friend is not very keen to accept Amendment No. 95, but I fail to see why he might be remotely keen to accept Amendments Nos. 101 and 106 other than in a spirit of goodwill. He will naturally want to look at anything suggested by the Opposition and, of course, I strongly approve of that. However, I believe that the central principle must be to construct a Bill that enables the director to deal with infringements and anti-competitive, anti-consumer activities. That is what I believe the Bill to be about. I regard it as broadly reasonable. I believe that it already strikes a reasonable balance. I do not want to discourage my noble friend from thinking further, but I hope that he has not already reached his conclusions on these matters.

Lord Campbell of Alloway: Given what the noble Lord, Lord Peston, has just said, I hope that the Minister will not depart from his suggestion, if I may put it that way, that what was implicit--I need not go over it again

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or the reasons why it was implicit, which are very important--should appear on the face of the Bill. I have put it quite shortly to save time.

Lord Peyton of Yeovil: There were occasions in the last Parliament when I felt it necessary, even desirable (although not everybody agreed with me) to endeavour to put what I thought was right and sensible into the minds of Ministers. I was not always successful, but I should like to take the opportunity afforded to me by the noble Lord, Lord Peston, to say how much I welcome a repetition of such arguments between himself and his noble friends. It gives my noble friends on the Front Bench an opportunity to get their breath back, although the Minister may find it a little tiresome, and greatly as I admire the noble Lord, Lord Peston, I am not sure whether it will do his standing with his noble friends all that much good. I am particularly sorry that, having briefly referred to Adam Smith's Wealth of Nations, we did not have the stimulating experience of hearing the noble Lord speak in more detail on that subject. I know of no one better qualified.

4.15 p.m.

Lord Ezra: In spite of what the noble Lord, Lord Peston, said, I support the amendments under consideration. At some stage those investigated need to know why they are under investigation. The fact that the Minister is prepared to take another look at this makes me feel very satisfied and I would not have intervened had it not been for the noble Lord, Lord Peston, quoting, as he regularly does, from Wealth of Nations. The Inland Revenue has occasionally told me that I have omitted something from my return, but it has never given me any clue about what has been omitted. On one occasion I spent hours with my financial adviser and, in the event, although there was an omission, it was an omission which did not involve any tax liability. Given the hours that I had spent, I was a little irritated. That is why I believe that if people are being investigated, they should be given at least some clue or guidance about the reason for that investigation.

Lord Simon of Highbury: I am grateful for the observations of the noble Lord, Lord Peyton, about the stimulating nature of debate in your Lordships' House. I do not believe that the noble Lord was present last Thursday when we had the most stimulating debate between the noble Baroness, Lady O'Cathain, who was fully in favour of all the investigatory powers that we are proposing, and some of her noble friends. The other side of the Committee had a remarkably interesting debate on that. Sitting in the middle, I receive wide-ranging advice from all corners of the Committee--and is not that a privilege?

I should like to say to the noble Lord, Lord Peston--he is, of course, my friend--that I listened with interest to him say that the main point of Wealth of Nations is competition. I agree--it is competition to achieve great value for all sides.

In concluding, I hope, this debate on these amendments, I repeat that I shall reflect on the four amendments, two of which I do not find appropriate but

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two of which I feel may add value to the Bill and which we may take forward after reflection. I therefore ask the noble Lord, Lord Kingsland, whether he is prepared to withdraw his amendment.

Lord Kingsland: Given that the Minister has not in any way resiled from his earlier remarks in relation to these amendments, despite the intervention of the noble Lord, Lord Peston, I gladly beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

The Deputy Chairman of Committees (Lord Ampthill): Before calling Amendment No. 95A, I should remind the Committee that if it is agreed to I cannot call Amendments Nos. 96 or 97.

Lord Peyton of Yeovil moved Amendment No. 95A:

Page 13, leave out lines 13 and 14.

The noble Lord said: Perhaps I may start by saying that I believe that competition is a good and necessary thing and follow that up with what noble Lords opposite could regard as either a threat or a promise: if I am accused of being a friend of cartels or someone who wishes to snuff out competition, I shall feel obliged to make an extremely long speech or series of speeches in my own defence. I hope that that will effectively silence any unpleasant jibes from the Benches opposite.

I continue by assuring the noble Lord who has the duty of carrying this Bill through that, had my noble friends and I still been on the other side of the House, I would have made exactly the same speech as I am about to make now. Perhaps I may interpolate one comment. When the Minister says that it is a great privilege to receive advice from all quarters of the Chamber, that is a testimony either to his guile or to the nobility of his nature. I prefer the latter construction, and I gladly salute him.

The words to which I particularly object are "any officer of his". Those words are very wide indeed. There is a need to indicate the officer of the director who has the necessary skills, experience and tact to carry out what may be a difficult and embarrassing task. I do not expect the Minister to draft on the hoof or to respond immediately with an acceptance of my amendment. That is not what is required here. However, I hope that he will give serious consideration to the possibility of limiting this power.

One understands that the authors of Bills that come before this House tend to approach them with an instrument not unlike a pepper mill. One sprinkles convenient phrases throughout the Bill in the hope that noble Lords will not notice them and in the belief that one never knows when they will become useful. Thus, it is a great pity not to include them. I do not believe that this is particularly welcome. I hope that the Minister will agree to examine the matter.

The powers conferred here relate not merely to the production of documents but to the requirement for an explanation of what a document is about and also entry without warrant. Even in these days when Parliament is not noticed all that much it is appropriate that we should

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at least stand up and say that Ministers must think very carefully before they include such language in a Bill. I was encouraged by the noble Lord's reference to fishing expeditions. I understand that it is not the intention of the Government to encourage such expeditions. During my time in your Lordships' House from time to time I have come across instances where people furnished with certain powers have tended to use them. I believe that a good number of people in official circles were born with whistles in their mouths and cannot refrain from blowing them on the most trivial and unimportant occasions. Without going into details, in one case a farmer in Lanarkshire was literally tortured for a year or so by presumptuous, intruding officials who were eventually brought to book only by a very sensible and wise judgment in the sheriff court.

I hope that the noble Lord will not impute to me any hostility to competition when I say that I am nervous about putting into the hands of people about whom I know very little powers that they may feel tempted to abuse, if only to ensure that they win the approval of their superiors. I beg to move.

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