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Lord Whitty moved Amendment No. 77:



("( ) The Director may at any time decide not to consider, or further consider, an application made under paragraph 3 if--
(a) he is of the opinion that he has not been provided with sufficient information to do so by the person or persons by whom the application was made, or
(b) sub-paragraph (1) or (2) has not been complied with.").

The noble Lord said: In moving Amendment No. 77, I speak also to Amendments Nos. 78 and 79. These amendments make minor changes to the provisions in Schedule 10 which provide for a special competition test for the exercise by local authorities of

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their functions in respect of quality partnership and ticketing schemes and in relation to bus subsidy. The schedule is in the Bill to reflect the anxieties of operating companies and local authorities that competition rules could undermine their approach to establishing quality partnerships.

These are minor amendments. Amendment No. 77 provides for circumstances where the Director-General of Fair Trading may decline to consider, or to consider further, an application made to him for a decision as to whether the competition test has been met. The circumstances are where he is of the opinion that he has not been provided by the applicant with sufficient information, or that the notification requirements have not been complied with. The purpose is to provide that the director-general, who would otherwise be formally obliged to determine an application, is not obliged to do so if it is frivolous, vexatious or based on insufficient information.

The aim is to enable the director-general to concentrate on cases which clearly are important and where there seems to be a possibility that the competition test is not met. It seems right that the director-general should be able to concentrate on cases where people would be most keen to gain a response from him.

Amendments Nos. 78 and 79 replace the "disclosure of information" provisions in paragraph 9 of Schedule 10 with an almost identical provision in a new paragraph before paragraph 14 with a new heading "Information". We believe it is entirely appropriate that the restrictions on disclosure of information without consent should apply to any information obtained by the director-general under Schedule 10 and not be limited to information provided under paragraph 6 as is currently the case. I beg to move.

Lord Bradshaw: I am not trying to be frivolous or vexatious but I must remind noble Lords that, during the period following the Transport Act 1985, for a period of about 10 years, half the cases relating to competition which were considered by the Director-General of Fair Trading concerned the bus industry. That was because in drafting the 1985 Bill and subsequent Act, insufficient attention was given to the competition issues which arise in the bus industry.

We saw battles fought out between bus companies where users were--I would use the word--"abused" by the bus companies. We also saw very little in the way of sanctions.

The new Competition Act has certainly put sanctions in place but I am by no means sure that the proper definitions of what constitutes anti-competitive behaviour are clear. The director-general has circulated a draft block exemption relating mainly to fares. The purpose of this intervention is to say that in Committee, but certainly by Report stage, we should like to be very clear that the differences of opinion, if they exist, between the department and the competition authorities have been ironed out and that very clear guidelines are available to those people in the industry to local authorities so that we do not, yet

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again, have 100 cases being referred to the competition authorities within the space of a year. The reason for those cases was because the legislation was not clear.

Lord Whitty: The noble Lord, Lord Bradshaw, is right that a large number of cases went to the Office of Fair Trading and its predecessors following deregulation of the industry. It was in part dealing with a real anti-competitive situation in that instead of leading to competition, deregulation led to a lot of cartels and quasi monopolies. So the competition authorities had a legitimate interest in that area.

Schedule 10 provides for squaring the competition test with the requirement for quality partnerships and other measures for delivering better services. The key paragraph in Schedule 10 is paragraph 2, which sets out the competition test. This is about whether one of the functions has a significantly adverse effect on competition. But that test is met even if there is a significant adverse effect on competition if the action can be justified on the grounds that the function is being exercised to achieve various public benefits--it is a public interest override. Those benefits may consist of better vehicles or facilities, other improvements in local services, substantial benefits to users. Those may be benefits in terms of reducing congestion, noise or pollution which reflect other clauses in the bus provisions in this Bill. If the adverse effect on competition is proportionate to the achievement of those purposes, so the public interest test is clearly built in there, and the observance of that will limit the number of unnecessary, and occasionally damaging, references to the Office of Fair Trading that there have been in the past.

On Question, amendment agreed to.

6 p.m.

Lord Whitty moved Amendments Nos. 78 and 79:


    Page 203, line 38, leave out paragraph 9.


    Page 205, line 7, at end insert--

("Information

.--(1) No information which--
(a) has been obtained by the Director in connection with his functions under this Schedule, and
(b) relates to the affairs of any individual or to any particular business,
is to be disclosed during the lifetime of that individual or while that business continues to be carried on, unless the condition mentioned in sub-paragraph (2) is satisfied.
(2) The condition is that consent to the disclosure has been obtained from--
(a) the person from whom the information was obtained, and
(b) if different, the individual to whose affairs the information relates or the person for the time being carrying on the business to which the information relates.
(3) Sub-paragraph (1) does not apply to a disclosure of information--
(a) made for the purpose of facilitating the performance of any function of the Director, a traffic commissioner or the Rail Regulator,

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(b) made for the purpose of facilitating the performance of any function of the European Commission in respect of Community law about competition,
(c) made for the purpose of criminal proceedings in any part of the United Kingdom or in connection with the investigation of a criminal offence triable in any part of the United Kingdom, or
(d) made in compliance with the order of a court or tribunal.
(4) If information is disclosed to the public in circumstances in which the disclosure does not contravene sub-paragraph (1), that sub-paragraph does not prevent its further disclosure by any person.
(5) A person who contravenes this paragraph is guilty of an offence and liable on summary conviction to a fine not exceeding level 5 on the standard scale.").

On Question, amendment agreed to.

Schedule 10, as amended, agreed to.

Clauses 142 to 147 agreed to.

Clause 148 [Part II: regulations and orders]:

Lord Whitty moved Amendment No. 80:


    Page 88, line 36, leave out ("the Secretary of State") and insert ("a Minister of the Crown").

On Question, amendment agreed to.

Clause 148, as amended, agreed to.

Clause 149 agreed to.

Schedule 11 [Minor and consequential amendments about local transport]:

Lord Whitty moved Amendments Nos. 81 and 82:


    Page 208, line 15, at end insert--


(". In section 93(7) (persons eligible to receive travel concessions under local scheme), for paragraph (e) substitute--
"(e) partially sighted persons, that is, persons whose sight is impaired to such an extent that they cannot reasonably accurately estimate the size and speed of movement of vehicular traffic;
(ea) persons who are deaf;
(eb) persons who are without speech;
(ec) persons who have a disability, or have suffered an injury, which seriously impairs their ability to walk;
(ed) persons who are without the use of both arms (whether by reason of the absence of those limbs or for any other reason);
(ee) persons who have a learning disability, that is, a state of arrested or incomplete development of mind which includes significant impairment of intelligence and social functioning;
(ef) persons who, if they applied for the grant of a licence to drive a motor vehicle under Part III of the Road Traffic Act 1988, would have their applications refused pursuant to section 92 of that Act (physical fitness);".").


    Page 209, leave out line 13.

On Question, amendments agreed to.

Schedule 11, as amended, agreed to.

Clause 150 [Interpretation of Part II]:

Lord McIntosh of Haringey moved Amendments Nos. 83 to 86:


    Page 89, line 5, leave out ("or a quality contracts scheme,") and insert (", a quality contracts scheme or a ticketing scheme,").


    Page 89, line 15, at end insert--


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