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Lord Davies of Coity: My Lords, I should like to take this opportunity of welcoming the Statement, particularly with regard to the measures to increase productivity. Those measures are concerned with high technology, high skills and high levels of employment. They contrast with the productivity increases that have sometimes been gained in the past with low wages and high levels of unemployment, placing a considerable burden on the country as a whole.

The introduction of a statutory minimum wage, if not implemented correctly, could create a poverty trap in that people may obtain an increase in wages but lose whatever income support they currently receive. Can the Minister assure us that, with the introduction of a national minimum wage, any reduction in supplementary benefits would take place over a period of time in proportion to an increase in the level of the national minimum wage?

Lord McIntosh of Haringey: My Lords, my noble friend will not expect me to anticipate the results of the investigation being carried out under the chairmanship of Professor George Bain. However, he can be assured that the problem of the interrelationship between wages and benefits is at the heart of Professor Bain's inquiries. He will have noticed that there is a reference in the Statement to reforms to benefits and, for example, to the tapers on benefits which will undoubtedly be necessary when a minimum wage is introduced.

Baroness Hogg: My Lords, I wonder if the Minister can help me with a point relating to public expenditure. Normally, in the autumn Statement we receive details, programme by programme, of what is happening to the profile of public expenditure. I am disappointed that this time the supporting material contains no such detail by department. However, there is one clue in the supporting material: we are told that there has been a classification change which should have had the effect of reducing total public expenditure on the control total by some £700 million. However, in the control total this year it is reported as unchanged. The implication is clear. There must have been a discretionary increase of £700 million in public expenditure since the Budget Statement. Can the Minister explain where this net discretionary increase has taken place?

Lord McIntosh of Haringey: My Lords, with regard to the noble Baroness's first question, the nation will not be deprived of statements of public expenditure; but no final decision has been taken about whether we shall continue with the unified Budget and Public Expenditure Statement or about the timing.

Baroness Hogg: My Lords, I was referring to the autumn Statement and with it regular publication, programme by programme, of out-turns.

Lord McIntosh of Haringey: My Lords, I appreciate that. But this is not an autumn Statement in the classic

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sense and was not intended to be so. I hope that the House will have found it a good deal more wide-ranging than an autumn Statement and a good deal more conducive to constructive debate.

As to the second point regarding the gap which the noble Baroness calculated, the Statement contains a number of examples of resource re-allocation. I have not added them up. The noble Baroness is entitled to have them added up and I shall write to her in that regard.

Lord Mackie of Benshie: My Lords, I am grateful to the noble Lord for his efforts to keep me warm this winter. But can he say, if there are figures, how many pensioner families are actually in need of support in the winter and how many are not?

Lord McIntosh of Haringey: My Lords, not off-the-cuff, I am afraid. I am sure that I ought to have known, but I do not. I shall write to the noble Lord.

Lord Dixon-Smith: My Lords, the Minister has had to take us through a complex Statement and a number of phases. He began by expressing concern over the rate of GDP at present being relatively unsustainable. We will not go into the reasons why the Government are of that opinion. He then went through a series of investment suggestions which should increase productivity and therefore, one would have thought, in due course impact on GDP and give it an inclination to increase. The noble Lord then went through a further set of steps which should increase the volume of employment by taking people off the unemployment register. Those factors are extremely welcome.

However, at the end of the Statement, unless I misheard, the noble Lord came up with figures for the range of growth in GDP next year of 2.25 per cent. to 2.75 per cent., which is less than the current rate of GDP growth. Did I miss something?

Lord McIntosh of Haringey: No, my Lords. The contrast which the Statement makes is between GDP growth without the measures which we are proposing and GDP growth with the measures we are proposing. The Statement makes clear that we inherited a pattern of GDP growth which was unsustainable without further action to avoid the kind of "boom and bust" situation which we inherited and which had been the pattern for a number of years. Without subscribing in every detail to the summary the noble Lord kindly gave of what he agrees is a complex Statement, he is right in his understanding of the figures for GDP growth.

Competition Bill [H.L.]

5.3 p.m.

House again in Committee.

Clause 50 [Advice and information]:

Viscount Astor moved Amendment No. 200A:

Page 25, line 16, after ("practicable") insert ("and in any case not later than three months").

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The noble Viscount said: In moving Amendment No. 200A, I shall speak also to Amendments Nos. 201 and 274. When one looks at Clause 50(1) the wording is:

    "As soon as is reasonably practicable after the passing of this Act".

Whenever one reads the words "reasonably practicable" in a Bill, it invariably raises one's hackles. One knows that they often mean "unreasonably" and "impracticable"--the very opposite of what they are supposed to mean. We know that, as always with these matters, the words are put in the Bill with the best of intentions but that, when a director is put in place and looks at these things, he will face problems of priorities--staffing, funding and having to agree with the Department of Trade and Industry on various matters. That seems to be rather unsatisfactory.

I tabled a probing amendment with a time limit of three months. That period is not important; it was included to obtain a reply from the Minister. My noble friends on the Front Bench, being marginally more clever than I am at tabling amendments, tabled a much better amendment in Amendment No. 201, which says,

    "before applying the provisions of this Act".

That is preferable because it means that the provisions do not come into force until the advice and information have been published. That is what we need. On a number of recent Bills before your Lordships we have had the problem of being faced with a Bill without any of the guidance or information necessary to make it work.

On an earlier amendment this afternoon the noble Lord, Lord Simon, said, if I heard him correctly, that the director would publish draft rules in the late spring or soon after a period of Royal Assent and, if that was not possible, he would look at the timetable again. If I am right, the rules must be published first and advice and information can be published afterwards.

Can the Minister say when he replies how the timetable will work and when we can see it? There is anxiety in industry that it is to be faced with a Bill which has an important effect on trade and industry but that the information to make the whole thing work may not be available. I beg to move.

Lord Kingsland: I want to speak on Amendment No. 274. I would have said something in relation to Amendment No. 201 were it not for the fact that my noble friend Lord Astor expressed himself so well in introducing the amendment that it would be superfluous for me to add anything. Amendment No. 274 is extremely important because it refers to the transitional provisions that ought or ought not to be allowed to industry and commerce before the Act bites.

The transitional period ought to be generous. If it is not, we shall not only be faced with a period of confusion and uncertainty, but it will also have a potentially costly impact on both industry and the OFT. Industry will have to protect itself by making a series of unnecessary notifications and the OFT will have to cover many eventualities which will ultimately turn out to be imaginary.

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The scheme of my amendment is as follows. First, the rules of procedure should be in place; then the guidance should be in place; then any exemptions on a block basis should be in place; and then a period of a year--it may be longer or shorter--should elapse before the provisions bite. That will give everyone a chance to get themselves ready.

In addition to that--here I anticipate an amendment that will not be taken until the end of the day but that is germane to Amendment No. 274--certain classes of agreement as set out in Amendment No. 273 ought to be allowed to survive the remaining term of the agreement before the director general turns his attention to them. I listed them in Amendment No. 273 and we will come to them when we deal with that amendment. They fit in with the concept that underlies this amendment.

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