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Lord Kingsland moved Amendment No. 73:

Page 90, leave out lines 6 to 25.

The noble Lord said: My Lords, Amendments Nos. 73 to 76 are in a group of amendments which seek to change parts of Schedule 11 in the context of Clauses 53 and 54 of the Bill. This is a matter that was covered both at Committee and Report stages when we sought to use a different approach.

At Committee stage we promoted the idea of a complete exclusion of these categories from the Bill and received an unfavourable reaction from the government Benches. At Report stage we promoted the idea of a 14-day notice before information was transferred from one designated person fulfilling a relevant function to another. Our final approach is to seek to amend Schedule 11 by narrowing down the range of delegated persons and relevant functions.

The amendment invokes an important principle; that is, that information acquired for one purpose by one regulator or the director-general should not be used for another purpose; otherwise, any one of the parties who is a designated person can go fishing in this pool to extract information to which he or she is not entitled. I beg to move.

Lord Simon of Highbury: My Lords, we have indeed covered this ground before and I noticed the slowing of the approach marks but no lacking in the keenness with which the amendments are put forward.

These amendments would prevent disclosure of information for any of the statutory functions listed in Schedule 11 other than for Bill purposes. I understand that noble Lords opposite believe that that should be the position. They have put their cases. However, we believe that we have answered them and shall do so one more time.

In brief, our view is that if the director or one of the sector regulators has information that he thinks will assist one of the other regulators to perform his statutory functions under another Act, he should be able to give him that information. This is entirely in line with many other UK regulatory statutes. There are similar provisions for disclosure for specified purposes in the Fair Trading Act, the Competition Act, the Restrictive Trade Practices Act, utilities statutes, the Financial Services Act and the Companies Act to name just a few.

The noble Lord has in the past--I am sorry that I did not catch everything he said--referred to the common pool of information available to the regulators in which to fish. I heard the mention of "fishing", but I did not know whether it was a reference again to the common pool. It is important to get that issue into perspective. Under Clause 55 the director or a sector regulator can only pass information to another regulator for a specific purpose; that is, to assist him with a specific statutory function.

I understand why noble Lords opposite wish to ensure that the House gives close attention to this issue. As I have said on a number of occasions, it is one that we believe to be important and sensitive. But we responded

5 Mar 1998 : Column 1379

carefully and fully to the points raised in debates and I therefore invite the noble Lord, Lord Kingsland, to withdraw his amendment.

Lord Kingsland: My Lords, I thank the Minister for the patient way in which he yet again responded to another approach to try and achieve a similar or the same result. The issue concerns the status of the information which is put into the pool. It is put in for a specific purpose. Another regulator may seek to extract it from the pool for his own purpose, a different purpose from the purpose for which it was originally put in.

That is the point I was trying to make. I see that I have made no headway tonight. Nevertheless, I appreciate the calm way in which the Minister responded. In those circumstances, I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

[Amendments Nos. 74 to 77 not moved.]

7.45 p.m.

Schedule 13 [Transitional Provisions and Savings]:

Lord Fraser of Carmyllie moved Amendment No. 78:

Page 98, line 26, after ("determined") insert--
("(a) in the case of proceedings under the RPA, before the date of enactment; and
(b) in the case of proceedings under the RTPA").

On Question, amendment agreed to.

Lord Fraser of Carmyllie moved Amendment No. 79:

Page 98, line 26, at end insert--
("(1A) On the date of enactment, continuing proceedings under the RPA shall automatically be stayed for a period of two years from that date or until such earlier time as they are discontinued under sub-paragraph (1B) or (5).
(1B) On the commencement date, continuing proceedings under the RPA which are stayed by virtue of sub-paragraph (1A) shall automatically be discontinued.").

On Question, amendment agreed to.

Lord Fraser of Carmyllie moved Amendment No. 80:

Page 99, line 22, at end insert (" or
(c) it is an agreement--
(i) where resale price maintenance has been approved,
(ii) particulars of which have been furnished under section 24(1) of the RTPA and which has not been referred to the Restrictive Practices Court,
(iii) which has been determined under section 21(2) of the RTPA to contain no significant restrictions or which has been found to contain no significant restrictions or which has been found not to be contrary to the public interest, or
(iv) specifically exempted or excluded from the RTPA.
( ) Sub-paragraph (1)(c) shall apply for the full life of the agreement or for as long as the agreement fulfils the relevant conditions for exclusion or exemption from the RTPA.").

5 Mar 1998 : Column 1380

The noble and learned Lord said: My Lords, I can deal with this matter briefly. The concern is that appropriate additional arrangements will be vital to keeping the compliance costs of the new legislation manageable. Once again the focus that we want to give to this legislation is not that there should just be an appropriate competition law regime in place, but that it should not be unnecessarily burdensome.

In our view the present provisions are inadequate. For example, under the Bill as currently drafted it will be possible for legislation to come into force before guidance on the interpretation of prohibition is agreed. That will cause confusion; force industry to make lots of potential unnecessary failsafe notifications; and will overburden the OFT.

I anticipate that the response from the Minister will be that, although it is theoretically possible, he will offer me an assurance that in practice it will not happen. If he offers that assurance, I can indicate that he can respond briefly, and I shall withdraw the amendment with even greater alacrity. I beg to move.

Lord Simon of Highbury: My Lords, we shall certainly do everything in our power to ensure that there is a minimum of bureaucracy in any way in which the Office of Fair Trading behaves. Beyond that, if that answer is satisfactory, I shall not go into the detail of Amendments Nos. 80 and 81.

Lord Fraser of Carmyllie: My Lords, I think that the noble Lord might have given me a little more than that, but at this time of night, given my high regard for the Department of Trade and Industry, I will assume that nothing irrational will be done. I will give credit for that, but the noble Lord might write to me giving the assurance that there will be no risk of the type I mentioned. I do not ask for any further comment from him. I am sure, knowing his reaction to other matters in the Bill, he will do as I request. I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

[Amendment No. 81 not moved.]

Schedule 14 [Repeals and Revocations]

Lord Haskel moved Amendments No. 82 to 86:

Page 104, line 17, column 3, at end insert--
("In section 16(5), the "or" immediately after paragraph (a).")

Page 104, line 40, column 3, at end insert--
("In section 28(5), the "or" immediately after paragraph (aa).")

Page 105, line 17, column 3, at end insert--
("In section 25(5), the "or" immediately after paragraph (b).")

Page 107, line 21, column 3, at end insert--
("In Article 28(5), the "or" immediately after sub-paragraph (b).")

5 Mar 1998 : Column 1381

Page 107, line 54, column 3, at end insert--
("In Article 19(5), the "or" immediately after sub-paragraph (b).")

The noble Lord said My Lords, we have already spoken to these amendments. I beg to move Amendments Nos. 82 to 86 en bloc.

On Question, amendments agreed to.

An amendment (privilege) made.

8.53 p.m.

Lord Simon of Highbury: My Lords, I beg to move that the Bill do now pass. We shall send this Bill to another place having made a number of important changes. In particular I refer to the 26 changes we made prior to today in response to points and concerns raised in the House. There are a number of other amendments consequential upon those changes.

There were two matters on which the House did not accept the Government's position. We shall have to reflect carefully on both. But the fairly numerous changes made to what I think all of us believe is an important and quite complex Bill are indicative of a very effective opposition and, I hope, a responsive government.

As a personal experience, I have very much enjoyed and appreciated the way the House has gone about its business. I pay tribute to the Opposition spokesmen and to other noble Lords whose experience we have greatly benefited from. All speeches were well argued, constructive and, sometimes, short. I am pleased that we have been able to work together in a spirit of consultation in order to bring about some real improvements.

I thank also my own Bill team and my noble friend on my left for all his help. I thank too the officers of the House and the staff--because we have been late on occasions--and parliamentary counsel, despite his views on indexes, for the unstinting support they have given. I thank all concerned and commend the Bill to the House.

Moved, That the Bill do now pass.--(Lord Simon of Highbury.)

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