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Lord Haskel: My Lords, I was advised by my noble friend the Minister to listen carefully to the remarks made by noble Lords this evening because these contributions would help stretch our understanding of the complex and difficult issues which will challenge us as we develop our approach to welfare. As usual, my noble friend the Minister was not wrong and I thank noble Lords for their contributions this evening.

I shall try to respond to some of the points. I thank noble Lords for having given me some notice of what their points might comprise. The noble Lord, Lord Higgins, asked about the road shows. They are by invitation because they debate the need for welfare reform. However, the press will be present to report what goes on. Welfare reform will, of course, be subject to the widest consultation and will not be debated only at these various road shows. The noble Lord asked who pays. It is certainly not the Government. The Labour Party pays for some of them and some are sponsored.

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Noble Lords asked about lone parents. This is not a Treasury driven matter. In the past lone parents have not been given the opportunity to leave benefit and move into work. The Government's strategy is not to leave lone parents on benefit but to address the barriers they face in moving into work. A key to helping lone parents into work is to provide practical help with job search, with building their confidence and with motivation, with developing their skills and with finding the right childcare. The Government are already providing that through our new deal for lone parents and our national childcare strategy. Some lone parents will choose not to take a job immediately, perhaps because they have a young child. However, these measures will allow those parents to return to work sooner, reducing the duration of benefit receipt and reducing the hardship associated with lengthy spells of benefit.

The noble Lord, Lord Higgins, also asked about heating payments to pensioners. Who is eligible? People receiving income support or income based jobseekers' allowance for at least one day in the week commencing 5th January 1998 and whose benefit includes a pensioner premium have received £50. People over state pension age (60 for women and 65 for men) receiving one of the many benefits during the week commencing 5th January will also receive a winter fuel payment. Those benefits are: attendance allowance; constant attendance allowance; disability living allowance; graduated retirement benefit; incapacity benefit; industrial death benefit; invalid care allowance; retirement pension; severe disablement allowance; unemployability supplement; war disablement pension; widow's benefit; war widow's pension. Those people, where there is only one eligible person in the household or that eligible person is of no fixed abode, will receive £20. Otherwise, each person will receive £10.

The Government want to have payments issued as quickly as possible. Payments of £50 to the 1½ million eligible pensioners receiving income support or income-based jobseeker's allowance have been made. The vast majority of payments to others will be made by the end of March.

The noble Lord also asked--

Lord Higgins: My Lords, I am extremely grateful to the noble Lord for giving way. Was the statement made by the Prime Minister, in the speech to which I referred, correct? That is to say, had all those payments been made at the time when he was speaking? In that context, what is the argument for the meetings not being public? I could not quite understand that.

Lord Haskel: My Lords, I do not have the Prime Minister's remarks in front of me so I would rather not comment on that. The position regarding the payments is as I have just said. The reason why the meetings are not public is that they are by invitation, to discuss the need for welfare reform. Those are discussions that take place as part of ordinary political activity.

The noble Lord also asked about pensions and the insurance rates. The measures in the July Budget are intended to ensure that the Government create and

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maintain the conditions for long-term investment and growth. They consider that that is the way to ensure that wealth is created to sustain pensions in the future and aid the companies that provide occupational schemes.

The noble Lord is quite right. John Denham did write to the Government Actuary asking him for advice on the effects changes to some of the factors might have had on the levels of the rebates. The Government Actuary concluded that in relation to the tax changes, in order for the rebates to continue to match the benefits forgone, an increase to all rebates is required. In the light of both that advice given by the Government Actuary and the impact of recent trends in the pensions industry on the resources available to the National Insurance Fund, my right honourable friend John Denham recently announced that, from April 1999--the first opportunity available--he proposed to increase age-related rebates for appropriate personal pensions and adjust the rebates for COMPS by replacing the current loading for expenses with the same as that contained within the rebate for the contracted out salary related schemes. Orders will be laid shortly and will be subject to debate in both Houses. That will give noble Lords an opportunity to debate the matter further.

The noble Earl, Lord Russell, spoke quite eloquently on a number of philosophical matters. He asked whether children living in poverty and the high number of workless are failures of the welfare state or failures of the economy. I am not sure which; one thing I am sure of is that they are in fact failures. That is why we are introducing a new deal for the unemployed and for the sick and disabled, and comprehensive spending reviews to examine every part of the social security system.

The noble Earl asked a similar question regarding the Government Actuary. I believe that the answer I gave to the noble Lord, Lord Higgins, covers his point.

If there is one clear message from today's debate, it is that people are not benefiting as they should from the unprecedented level of social security expenditure. Our task is to reform the system so that it is the engine that powers social policy, so that the money spent is used as a kind of investment--an investment in an active welfare system which seeks to influence people's behaviour and which encourages self-reliance where appropriate; an investment in customer focused service responding to people's needs.

We have made plain that welfare has a clearly defined role in supporting fully those who are unable to support themselves. The mark of an inclusive society is the extent to which people feel honour bound to pool their resources to help the needy. But we have also made clear that the importance of work, with its wage and non-wage values, is fundamental. The failure of welfare is in part due to the inability to distinguish between the needy and those who can support themselves. I am sure that today's debate has advanced our understanding of the tensions that arise when trying to place welfare in the context of a society that wants to move on from the past. I welcome the support that noble Lords have given to the general principles of the business in hand and commend the orders to the House.

On Question, Motion agreed to.

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Lord Haskel: My Lords, I beg to move that the House do now adjourn during pleasure until ten minutes before nine o'clock.

Moved accordingly, and, on Question, Motion agreed to.

[The Sitting was suspended from 8.47 to 8.50 p.m.]

Competition Bill [H.L.]

Consideration of amendments on Report resumed on Schedule 10.

[Amendments Nos. 167 to 168A not moved.]

Lord St. John of Bletso moved Amendment No. 169:

Page 70, line 45, at end insert--
("(3B) Where the Director is entitled to exercise any of the functions assigned to him by subsection (3) above in respect of any matter he shall deal with that matter by exercising those functions and not by exercising any functions provided by or under Part II of this Act or any licence issued under that Part.
(3C) Where the Director proposes to exercise any of the functions assigned to him by subsection (3) above, before doing so he shall give written notice that he proposes to exercise those functions to any person likely to be affected.
(3D) Where the Director exercises any of the functions assigned to him by subsection (3) above in respect of any matter, any duty imposed upon him by any other provision of this Act to take enforcement action in respect of that matter shall not apply."").

The noble Lord said: My Lords, this amendment, like Amendments Nos. 166 and 167, is specific to the information technology field. It deals with the problems posed by the overlap of jurisdictions where the DGT acts as regulator under the 1984 Telecommunications Act and as competition authority under the new powers in the Bill. The amendment ensures that the DGT, when exercising powers to deal with anti-competitive behaviour within the Bill, should do so under and strictly within the scope of the Bill.

While I accept the Government's commitment to give new, comprehensive powers to regulators on a concurrent basis with the DGFT, I am concerned that those powers could make the regulators the investigator, the prosecutor, the judge or even the jury. It is therefore important that the Bill establishes and clearly defines how and when the regulator will exercise those powers.

I refer again to the letter which was sent by Oftel. The DGT, in his commentary on the amendment, said:

    "I believe this amendment would unnecessarily restrict my freedom to use the most appropriate legislation in a particular case".

The DGT also wrote in the Financial Times last week expressing concerns on a number of the amendments to Schedule 10. He was concerned that the amendments might threaten the ability of sectoral regulators to tackle anti-competitive behaviour effectively. I do not entirely agree with his concerns. The amendments are not aimed at reducing the efficacy of the sectoral regulators' powers to tackle anti-competitive behaviour but--and I stress this--that they determine and define exactly when and how those powers should be exercised. The amendment would promote the use of powers under the Bill and ensure that anti-competitive behaviour within the Bill was tackled in accordance with the provisions

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of the Bill. It would promote consistency and certainty about how anti-competitive behaviour within the scope of the Bill should be dealt with. It would ensure that the provisions of the Bill were not avoided or circumvented by use of alternative overlapping powers which might be available to the DGT from time to time. To mix up the different roles and powers and to make no provision about when each set of powers should be used would encourage conflict and potential confusion. If the wrong tools are used for a job, the nature of the job itself can become confused.

The amendment would avoid any problem if decisions were based on mixed jurisdictions. There would be severe difficulties for a tribunal dealing with any appeal from a decision based on mixed jurisdictions. The amendment would not prejudice the new powers under the Bill or disturb the continuing regulatory powers of the DGT to deal with any matters, including competition matters, falling outside the scope of the Bill.

As I mentioned in my previous two amendments, the jobs of a regulator and of a competition authority under the Bill are different. As indicated by the noble Lord, Lord Kingsland, the purposes of competition law and regulation, and their regimes of enforcement, are different. It is likely that it is for those reasons that the 1984 Telecommunications Act gave the DGT general powers as a competition authority on a concurrent basis with the DGFT in addition to his regulatory objectives and powers. If the DGT is to have two jobs it is essential that it is clear when he will do one and when he will do the other. When the jobs overlap, the Bill, with this amendment, should prevail.

The second part of the amendment deals with whether a matter is within the scope of the Bill or outside the scope of the Bill. The amendment would ensure that the DGT consider at the outset whether to proceed under the Bill's powers or under other powers. The DGT should give written notice of the cases where he proposes to exercise functions under the Bill rather than other functions.

The third part of the amendment ensures that where the DGT exercises functions under the Bill, any duty which might arise under the 1984 Act to deal with the same matter under the separate enforcement provisions in that Act shall not apply. I refer again to the DGT's letter of 17th February where he stated on this subject:

    "I would agree with concerns highlighted in the last part of the amendment about the Director General of Telecommunications being required, as a result of obligations in the Telecommunications Act, to take enforcement action against a breach of a licence condition even if he decided that it was more appropriate to deal with the situation under the new Competition Act."

My amendment would clarify how the regime should work in a complementary and commonsense way. I beg to move.

9 p.m.

Viscount Trenchard: My Lords, I speak in support of Amendment No. 169 which seeks to ensure that the Director General of Telecommunications, in pursuing the objectives of the Bill, must decide whether he wishes to exercise powers granted under the Bill or powers granted under other legislation. It also requires him to

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use Bill powers to deal with matters within the scope of the Bill and to make clear that he is acting under Bill powers alone.

For the reasons I gave earlier when speaking in support of Amendments Nos. 166 and 167--namely, the need for consistency and certainty, particularly in the information technology field--this amendment is important. As Mr. Thomas Sharpe QC pointed out in his article in The Times today, it would be a fundamental mistake to regard competition and regulation as having no real difference between them. I hope that the Minister may have had time to read the article during the dinner-hour.

I believe it is essential that the business community should know that anti-competitive behaviour of the kind dealt with by Articles 85 and 86 of the Treaty of Rome should be dealt with under the Bill. I hope that, after further consideration, the Minister may decide to support the amendment.

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