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The Duke of Montrose: I hear what the Minister says, but we wish to take the matter away and reconsider it. I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

The Duke of Montrose moved Amendment No. 166B:

The noble Duke said: In moving this amendment, I shall speak also to Amendment No. 166C. This is a probing amendment. We seek to determine who is meant by,

    Xpersons likely to be affected by it".

What type of publication does the Government have in mind as being suitable?

On Amendment No. 166C, once a matter has been referred to the Competition Commission, no one, not even the Secretary of State, should be allowed to withdraw it. It should be the duty of the authority to ensure that, by the time the reference is made, the basic reasons for doing so are well established. I beg to move.

Lord Whitty: On Amendment No. 166B, which seeks to place a requirement on the authority to put references in the public domain, that is already practised and Ofwat will have the responsibility to ensure that that continues in line with open and transparent regulation. I do not believe that we need to specify that on the face of the Bill.

Amendment No. 166C is slightly more complex. It removes the Secretary of State's power to veto referrals to the commission by the authority. The water supplier licence conditions are there to implement much of the Government's water supply competition policy. Hence the Bill gives the Secretary of State the power to determine the initial standards of licence. Therefore, it

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follows that a power of veto is logically required over a change to the licence conditions. Without it, the policy intent behind the initial standard conditions could be lost by subsequent modifications. It is also important to note that the same arrangement exists in the gas and electricity licensing regimes, and they have operated successfully there for some years.

Baroness Miller of Chilthorne Domer: In the Minister's first reply to the amendment asking for this matter to be put into the public domain, he referred to the fact that Ofwat already does this, so it does not need to be on the face of the Bill. When drafting amendments on something that is already custom and practice, it would be helpful to know when custom and practice mean that there is not a requirement for something to be said on the face of a Bill.

Baroness Byford: I had written that point in my notes. Is such a matter already on the face of other Bills, or is it just normal practice? If it is normal practice, but it is not on the face of any other Bill, then I believe we should start to include it; if it is already in other Bills, then it should be included here, because the principle has already been established.

Baroness O'Cathain: If such a matter is not established, it should be. The reality is that we are not supposed to be mind-readers. Above all, we need clarity and transparency, referring back to the wonderful five Ofcom virtues. I believe that this point is important.

Perhaps I may say to the Minister that, in our discussions on the Competition Bill—going back some time—I did not realise that we had allowed the Secretary of State to have such fantastic power. What happens if the Secretary of State has a brainstorm and goes mad?

Baroness Farrington of Ribbleton: That could never happen under a Labour government.

Baroness O'Cathain: The noble Baroness makes a sedentary intervention.

The Duke of Montrose: I suggest that we call the undertaker!

Lord Whitty: This may be an appropriate point at which to break the proceedings. Before the Committee adjourns, perhaps I may say, on the issue of what is placed in the public domain, that legislation is inevitably inconsistent as regards what is on the face of the Bill and what is not. The point in regard to this particular proposition is that this is so central to the Government's overall policy on transparent regulation that the assumption can be made. Whether that transfers itself into custom and practice so that it could never be altered becomes a philosophical point. I am not prepared to engage with the noble Baroness on that during the debate on this amendment, which, subject to my noble friend intervening, will be the last

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amendment that we shall consider today. Such provision probably does not need to be on the face of the Bill. Nor do I necessarily think that the draconian powers for a sane—let alone a mad—Secretary of State are sufficient to warrant the concerns that have been expressed.

The Duke of Montrose: I thank the Minister for his reply. As this has turned out to be such a hotly contentious issue, we should like to take it away and consider it. I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

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[Amendment No. 166C not moved.]

Baroness Farrington of Ribbleton: This may be an appropriate moment for further consideration of the Bill in Committee to be adjourned until noon on Thursday.

The Deputy Chairman of Committees (Lord Haskel): The Committee stands adjourned until noon on Thursday.

        The Committee adjourned at twenty-eight minutes before eight o'clock.

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