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Enterprise Act 2002 (Specification of Additional Section 58 Consideration) Order 2020

Volume 804: debated on Wednesday 15 July 2020

Enterprise Act 2002 (Share of Supply Test) (Amendment) Order 2020

Motion to Regret

Tabled by

That this House regrets that the Enterprise Act 2002 (Specification of Additional Section 58 Consideration) Order 2020 and the Enterprise Act 2002 (Share of Supply Test) (Amendment) Order 2020 include permanent measures while only intended to mitigate risks against company mergers in the short term, and calls on Her Majesty’s Government to subject the forthcoming National Security and Investment Bill to urgent pre-legislative scrutiny so as to ensure that it has appropriate powers to ensure that all significant mergers and acquisitions in all sectors of the economy are subject to comprehensive scrutiny by the competition authorities as regards their impact on consumers.

My Lords, I thank all speakers who have participated in this debate. It may have been rapid fire and we have had to cover a lot of ground individually but some very good points were made, several of which were noted and responded to by the Minister.

We had several contributions on the need for early sight of, and time to debate, the forthcoming Bill. In particular, my noble friend Lord Reid worried about the inclusion of temporary measures within permanent legislation, something that was also picked up by the noble Lord, Lord German. Other noble Lords raised other issues which ought to be considered in the forthcoming Bill. The noble Earl, Lord Lindsay, raised the need for lower limit for turnover; this was not welcomed by the Minister but I think the noble Earl made a very good point. The noble Lord, Lord Lansley, made a point that I support entirely on the need to revisit media takeovers; as the last experience shows, there was time for this part of the statute to be reviewed.

My noble friends Lord Adonis, Lord Liddle and Lord Kennedy raised concerns about the CMA as it goes through the transition to a new chair. Perhaps the Minister could write—more fully than he was able to do when he responded—about some of the more detailed questions.

Four issues were raised by my regret Motion. The first was the difficulty of securing scrutiny without sight of the national security and investment Bill—the Minister has said in response that this is a top priority, but we do not have a date; the best we have is that it will be with us “in due course”. I take that as a failure to get anything out of that. We have not seen much of the content of the Bill, even though the Minister has agreed that things have changed since 2018 so we can imagine that there will be some adjustments; so, I failed to get anything out of him on that. On the question of whether there should be pre-legislative scrutiny, perhaps he could write to us. I really cannot see the case for not having that in play; it would seem to give the Government a chance to see the sorts of responses to this type of legislation that are necessary without having to make a final commitment; this has always proved useful in the past. Finally, on my fourth point about the role of consumers within the process, all we know is that the new chairman of the CMA is being appointed; there were no answers to the specific questions that I raised.

So, we have not got answers to the regret Motion as tabled, but we have had a very good debate. I think we can say that we have responded well to the Secondary Legislation Scrutiny Committee’s request that this issue be drawn to the attention of the House. It certainly has been.

Motion not moved.

Sitting suspended.