Select Committee on Constitution Minutes of Evidence


Examination of Witnesses (Questions 960-963)

WEDNESDAY 5 NOVEMBER 2003

MR JOHN VICKERS AND MS PENNY BOYS, OFFICE OF FAIR TRADING

  960. Following the memorandum of understanding your responsibility is a sharing one in terms of the information, making sure each is informed of what the other is doing while maintaining your different responsibilities?
  (Ms Boys) I think there are areas of work not related to our independent decisions where it is sensible for there to be close liaison with the department, for example in shaping future legislation from Brussels. It is helpful for that to be informed by our practical experience of how things need to be enforced.
  (Mr Vickers) I would add that in the context where legislation proposals are being developed, such as the current review of consumer credit legislation, we have practitioner experience which it is entirely sensible that we should lend to the process, but ultimately it is Government which is responsible for which legislation is brought to Parliament and it is for Parliament to decide which legislation is enacted. There are other areas too. I think one could imagine areas where a joint research project would not be improper between OFT and DTI but that is very separate from the case work, where we must be and be seen to be independent.

  961. Indeed. Does your status as a non-ministerial department have any bearing on your role? Are there particular advantages which attach to that?
  (Mr Vickers) I think the advantage of being non-ministerial is that it should be clear to all that political considerations do not enter a sphere where under the legislation they should not enter. So it makes that clear to everyone. I think that does have some advantage.

  962. The fact that you are non-ministerial gives you the independence. Does the fact that you are classed as a department signify at all in a way which is beneficial?
  (Ms Boys) There is the difference that we are vote-funded and I hesitate to say whether that actually gives or creates a sense of independence as opposed to those who are funded by licences.

Chairman

  963. Thank you very much indeed. That has been extremely helpful. I am conscious we are up against time and you need to be away, so we are very grateful to you both for your paper and being with us this afternoon.

  (Mr Vickers) Thank you, Chairman. I am conscious that our paper is now several months old and quite a lot has happened. If the Committee would like a revised paper we would be more than happy to provide one.

  Chairman: That would be extremely helpful. Thank you very much indeed. We would very much welcome that.





 
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