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Mrs. Liddell: I agree whole-heartedly with the right hon. Gentleman. The amendment was introduced by the Opposition in the Lords. The point made by the right hon. Gentleman was made by my noble Friend Lord McIntosh but, in the spirit of co-operation that we have shown throughout deliberations on the Bill, the Government are willing to accept the amendment. However, I am sure that the right hon. Gentleman's words will be heard by his noble Friends in another place.

Mr. Forth: I am advised that Liberal Democrat peers in another place tabled the amendment. They are not part of the official Opposition: in fact, they usually do not oppose the Government at all.

Even so, I am not impressed with what the Minister just said. It is astonishing that she should have told the House that the spirit of compromise--with which I rarely agree anyway--has led her to agree to the inclusion in the Bill of meaningless verbiage. That will hasten the Bill's progress to the statute book, but it is astonishing and disgraceful for her to admit that she is willing to accept words that she has said that she opposes. It reinforces my determination to vote against the amendment, if the opportunity so to do arises.

Sir Michael Spicer: I shall not repeat my Second Reading speech, which my hon. Friend the Member for Bognor Regis and Littlehampton (Mr. Gibb) was kind enough to quote at length. However, I want to put it firmly on record that I believe that the regulatory system amounts to socialism on the sly. It has nothing to do with benefits for the industry, and everything to do with income distribution and the Government's political objectives.

If that were not so, the Government would have established a totally different trading system, which did not depend on the big companies being able to sew up the contract market. Different arrangements would not have created so much worry among smaller market players,

27 Jul 2000 : Column 1337

and no referrals to the Competition Commission would have been made. The whole matter would have been dealt with in a totally different way. That needs to be put on the record.

This is not an isolated case--it is part of a process that goes right across the regulatory board. Every regulatory regime that the Government are tampering with is putting economic and competition considerations below the wider political considerations. The Government are proactive in this respect, and have that objective in mind. There is no disguise. It is apparent in all the bodies--the Financial Services Authority now has social banking, and integrated transport systems are an objective.

In every regulatory regime, the political objectives are more important that the economic objectives. I am very glad to hear from my hon. Friend the Member for Bognor Regis and Littlehampton that when we come into office, we will strip all this bare again and start off with a proper regime that puts competition, the marketplace and genuine economic objectives at the forefront. It will not do what politicians may seek to do, albeit through different means. Income distribution should not be made through a regulatory process that pretends to be of economic benefit to the country.

Mrs. Liddell: Well, the splits have been exposed tonight all right. We have seen splits between the official Opposition in this place and the official Opposition in another place. The right hon. Member for Bromley and Chislehurst (Mr. Forth) claimed that amendment No. 13 was defective and that he would oppose it, yet his colleagues in another place supported it. The reason that the Government are accepting it is quite simple: it adds very little to the Bill, but it is better that people get the benefits of the Utilities Bill sooner rather than later.

We also saw a split between those on the Front and Back Benches. The hon. Member for West Worcestershire (Sir M. Spicer) complained about new electricity trading arrangements, yet only a couple of weeks ago Baroness Buscombe said:

She also said that they supported the new electricity trading arrangements. The hon. Member for Bognor Regis and Littlehampton (Mr. Gibb) made exactly the same point. It is always a pleasure when the hon. Gentleman comes to the Dispatch Box; it is like listening to the speech of an old friend, because we hear it so often.

We will make sure that we take careful note of what Conservative Members have said tonight--it will be very useful in the forthcoming election. Conservative Members put in place the system of privatisation that was deliberately opposed to the interests of the consumer. We will bear that in mind.

The hon. Member for Bognor Regis and Littlehampton complained about telecommunications and water being taken out of the Bill. When he reads his speeches, he should read all of his speeches. I draw to his attention his remarks that the Government would have the support of the Opposition if telecommunications were to be removed from the Bill, when he said:

27 Jul 2000 : Column 1338

Despite the fact that this debate has sounded like a Third Reading debate, it was not--it was actually a debate on the Opposition's amendments (a) to Lords amendments Nos. 12 and 15. The Opposition's amendments are technically deficient. Under existing legislation, the regulator and the Secretary of State are under a primary duty to secure that licence holders are able to finance certain of their activities. That is why we are concerned that this and other aspects of existing legislation has led to the interests of consumers being subordinated to those of shareholders. That is why the Bill puts the consumer first. However, it remains important that licence holders are able to finance their activities. That is why the Bill replaces the existing finance duty as an aspect of the primary consumer duty. A balance must be struck between the consumer and the shareholder. That is why the finance duty has been incorporated as an aspect of the interests of consumers.

The amendments proposed by the hon. Member for Bognor Regis and Littlehampton would add nothing to the present wording of clauses 9 and 13. They simply introduce a reference to securing finance and to capital investment required. However, it is already clear that the duty in the provisions extends to the securing of finance. The licence holder's provision could not be included could it not secure that finance. I believe that the hon. Gentleman has used this as an opportunity to rehearse the arguments that he has used in the past.

6 pm

The hon. Member for Spelthorne (Mr. Wilshire) asks why we are using expressions like

I urge the House to support the amendments tabled by the Government which make sensible improvements to the Bill and take into account the concerns of all involved.

The House divided: Ayes 281, Noes 116.

Division No. 296
[6 pm


Abbott, Ms Diane
Allan, Richard
Allen, Graham
Anderson, Donald (Swansea E)
Anderson, Janet (Rossendale)
Ashton, Joe
Atkins, Charlotte
Austin, John
Banks, Tony
Barnes, Harry
Barron, Kevin
Beard, Nigel
Beckett, Rt Hon Mrs Margaret
Bell, Stuart (Middlesbrough)
Benn, Hilary (Leeds C)
Benn, Rt Hon Tony (Chesterfield)
Bennett, Andrew F
Benton, Joe
Best, Harold
Blears, Ms Hazel
Blizzard, Bob
Bradley, Keith (Withington)
Bradley, Peter (The Wrekin)
Bradshaw, Ben
Brinton, Mrs Helen
Brown, Rt Hon Nick (Newcastle E)
Buck, Ms Karen
Burden, Richard
Byers, Rt Hon Stephen
Cable, Dr Vincent
Caborn, Rt Hon Richard
Campbell, Rt Hon Menzies
(NE Fife)
Campbell-Savours, Dale
Cann, Jamie
Caplin, Ivor
Casale, Roger
Caton, Martin
Cawsey, Ian
Chapman, Ben (Wirral S)
Clapham, Michael
Clark, Rt Hon Dr David (S Shields)
Clark, Dr Lynda
(Edinburgh Pentlands)
Clark, Paul (Gillingham)
Clarke, Rt Hon Tom (Coatbridge)
Clarke, Tony (Northampton S)
Clelland, David
Clwyd, Ann
Coaker, Vernon
Coffey, Ms Ann
Cohen, Harry
Coleman, Iain
Colman, Tony
Connarty, Michael
Cook, Frank (Stockton N)
Cooper, Yvette
Corbett, Robin
Corbyn, Jeremy
Corston, Jean
Cousins, Jim
Cox, Tom
Cranston, Ross
Cryer, John (Hornchurch)
Cummings, John
Cunningham, Jim (Cov'try S)
Curtis-Thomas, Mrs Claire
Darvill, Keith
Davey, Edward (Kingston)
Davey, Valerie (Bristol W)
Davies, Rt Hon Denzil (Llanelli)
Davies, Geraint (Croydon C)
Dawson, Hilton
Dismore, Andrew
Dobbin, Jim
Doran, Frank
Dowd, Jim
Drown, Ms Julia
Dunwoody, Mrs Gwyneth
Eagle, Angela (Wallasey)
Eagle, Maria (L'pool Garston)
Edwards, Huw
Ellman, Mrs Louise
Ennis, Jeff
Field, Rt Hon Frank
Fisher, Mark
Fitzpatrick, Jim
Fitzsimons, Mrs Lorna
Flint, Caroline
Follett, Barbara
Foster, Rt Hon Derek
Foster, Don (Bath)
Foster, Michael Jabez (Hastings)
Foster, Michael J (Worcester)
Fyfe, Maria
George, Andrew (St Ives)
George, Bruce (Walsall S)
Gerrard, Neil
Gibson, Dr Ian
Godman, Dr Norman A
Godsiff, Roger
Goggins, Paul
Gordon, Mrs Eileen
Griffiths, Jane (Reading E)
Griffiths, Win (Bridgend)
Grocott, Bruce
Grogan, John
Gunnell, John
Hall, Mike (Weaver Vale)
Hall, Patrick (Bedford)
Hamilton, Fabian (Leeds NE)
Heal, Mrs Sylvia
Healey, John
Hepburn, Stephen
Heppell, John
Hesford, Stephen
Hewitt, Ms Patricia
Hill, Keith
Hinchliffe, David
Hodge, Ms Margaret
Hoon, Rt Hon Geoffrey
Hopkins, Kelvin
Howarth, Alan (Newport E)
Howarth, George (Knowsley N)
Howells, Dr Kim
Hughes, Ms Beverley (Stretford)
Hughes, Kevin (Doncaster N)
Hurst, Alan
Hutton, John
Iddon, Dr Brian
Illsley, Eric
Jackson, Ms Glenda (Hampstead)
Jackson, Helen (Hillsborough)
Jamieson, David
Jenkins, Brian
Johnson, Alan (Hull W & Hessle)
Johnson, Miss Melanie
(Welwyn Hatfield)
Jones, Ms Jenny
(Wolverh'ton SW)
Jones, Jon Owen (Cardiff C)
Jones, Dr Lynne (Selly Oak)
Jones, Martyn (Clwyd S)
Jowell, Rt Hon Ms Tessa
Keen, Alan (Feltham & Heston)
Keen, Ann (Brentford & Isleworth)
Kelly, Ms Ruth
Kennedy, Rt Hon Charles
(Ross Skye & Inverness W)
Kennedy, Jane (Wavertree)
Khabra, Piara S
Kidney, David
King, Andy (Rugby & Kenilworth)
Kumar, Dr Ashok
Ladyman, Dr Stephen
Laxton, Bob
Leslie, Christopher
Lewis, Ivan (Bury S)
Lewis, Terry (Worsley)
Liddell, Rt Hon Mrs Helen
Linton, Martin
Livsey, Richard
Lloyd, Tony (Manchester C)
McAvoy, Thomas
McCabe, Steve
McCafferty, Ms Chris
McCartney, Rt Hon Ian
McDonagh, Siobhain
McDonnell, John
McGuire, Mrs Anne
McIsaac, Shona
McKenna, Mrs Rosemary
Mackinlay, Andrew
McNamara, Kevin
McNulty, Tony
McWalter, Tony
Mahon, Mrs Alice
Mallaber, Judy
Marsden, Gordon (Blackpool S)
Marshall, David (Shettleston)
Marshall, Jim (Leicester S)
Martlew, Eric
Meacher, Rt Hon Michael
Meale, Alan
Merron, Gillian
Michael, Rt Hon Alun
Michie, Bill (Shef'ld Heeley)
Miller, Andrew
Moffatt, Laura
Moore, Michael
Moran, Ms Margaret
Morgan, Alasdair (Galloway)
Morgan, Ms Julie (Cardiff N)
Morley, Elliot
Morris, Rt Hon Ms Estelle
(B'ham Yardley)
Mountford, Kali
Mullin, Chris
Naysmith, Dr Doug
O'Brien, Bill (Normanton)
O'Brien, Mike (N Warks)
Olner, Bill
Öpik, Lembit
Palmer, Dr Nick
Pearson, Ian
Perham, Ms Linda
Pickthall, Colin
Pike, Peter L
Plaskitt, James
Pollard, Kerry
Pond, Chris
Pope, Greg
Pound, Stephen
Powell, Sir Raymond
Prentice, Ms Bridget (Lewisham E)
Prentice, Gordon (Pendle)
Prosser, Gwyn
Quin, Rt Hon Ms Joyce
Quinn, Lawrie
Radice, Rt Hon Giles
Rammell, Bill
Rapson, Syd
Reed, Andrew (Loughborough)
Robinson, Geoffrey (Cov'try NW)
Rogers, Allan
Rooker, Rt Hon Jeff
Rooney, Terry
Ross, Ernie (Dundee W)
Ruddock, Joan
Salmond, Alex
Salter, Martin
Sarwar, Mohammad
Savidge, Malcolm
Sawford, Phil
Sedgemore, Brian
Shaw, Jonathan
Sheerman, Barry
Shipley, Ms Debra
Simpson, Alan (Nottingham S)
Skinner, Dennis
Smith, Rt Hon Chris (Islington S)
Smith, Jacqui (Redditch)
Smith, Llew (Blaenau Gwent)
Snape, Peter
Soley, Clive
Southworth, Ms Helen
Spellar, John
Starkey, Dr Phyllis
Steinberg, Gerry
Stewart, Ian (Eccles)
Stinchcombe, Paul
Stoate, Dr Howard
Strang, Rt Hon Dr Gavin
Stuart, Ms Gisela
Stunell, Andrew
Sutcliffe, Gerry
Taylor, Rt Hon Mrs Ann
Taylor, Ms Dari (Stockton S)
Temple-Morris, Peter
Thomas, Gareth R (Harrow W)
Thomas, Simon (Ceredigion)
Tipping, Paddy
Tonge, Dr Jenny
Touhig, Don
Turner, Dennis (Wolverh'ton SE)
Turner, Dr George (NW Norfolk)
Turner, Neil (Wigan)
Twigg, Derek (Halton)
Twigg, Stephen (Enfield)
Tyler, Paul
Vis, Dr Rudi
Walley, Ms Joan
Ward, Ms Claire
Wareing, Robert N
Watts, David
Whitehead, Dr Alan
Wicks, Malcolm
Williams, Rt Hon Alan
(Swansea W)
Williams, Mrs Betty (Conwy)
Wills, Michael
Winnick, David
Winterton, Ms Rosie (Doncaster C)
Wood, Mike
Woodward, Shaun
Woolas, Phil
Wright, Anthony D (Gt Yarmouth)
Wyatt, Derek

Tellers for the Ayes:

Mr. Clive Betts and
Mr. Robert Ainsworth.


Ainsworth, Peter (E Surrey)
Amess, David
Arbuthnot, Rt Hon James
Atkinson, Peter (Hexham)
Baldry, Tony
Bercow, John
Beresford, Sir Paul
Blunt, Crispin
Body, Sir Richard
Boswell, Tim
Bottomley, Peter (Worthing W)
Brady, Graham
Brazier, Julian
Brooke, Rt Hon Peter
Browning, Mrs Angela
Butterfill, John
Cash, William
Chapman, Sir Sydney
(Chipping Barnet)
Clappison, James
Clarke, Rt Hon Kenneth
Collins, Tim
Cormack, Sir Patrick
Cran, James
Curry, Rt Hon David
Davis, Rt Hon David (Haltemprice)
Day, Stephen
Fabricant, Michael
Fallon, Michael
Flight, Howard
Forth, Rt Hon Eric
Fowler, Rt Hon Sir Norman
Fraser, Christopher
Gale, Roger
Garnier, Edward
Gibb, Nick
Gill, Christopher
Gillan, Mrs Cheryl
Gorman, Mrs Teresa
Gray, James
Green, Damian
Greenway, John
Grieve, Dominic
Gummer, Rt Hon John
Hague, Rt Hon William
Hamilton, Rt Hon Sir Archie
Hammond, Philip
Hawkins, Nick
Heald, Oliver
Heathcoat-Amory, Rt Hon David
Hogg, Rt Hon Douglas
Horam, John
Howard, Rt Hon Michael
Jack, Rt Hon Michael
Jenkin, Bernard
Johnson Smith,
Rt Hon Sir Geoffrey
Key, Robert
King, Rt Hon Tom (Bridgwater)
Kirkbride, Miss Julie
Laing, Mrs Eleanor
Lait, Mrs Jacqui
Lansley, Andrew
Leigh, Edward
Letwin, Oliver
Lidington, David
Lloyd, Rt Hon Sir Peter (Fareham)
Loughton, Tim
Luff, Peter
Lyell, Rt Hon Sir Nicholas
MacGregor, Rt Hon John
McIntosh, Miss Anne
MacKay, Rt Hon Andrew
Maclean, Rt Hon David
McLoughlin, Patrick
Madel, Sir David
Major, Rt Hon John
Malins, Humfrey
Maples, John
Maude, Rt Hon Francis
May, Mrs Theresa
Moss, Malcolm
Nicholls, Patrick
Norman, Archie
O'Brien, Stephen (Eddisbury)
Ottaway, Richard
Paice, James
Paterson, Owen
Pickles, Eric
Prior, David
Redwood, Rt Hon John
Robathan, Andrew
Rowe, Andrew (Faversham)
St Aubyn, Nick
Shepherd, Richard
Simpson, Keith (Mid-Norfolk)
Spicer, Sir Michael
Spring, Richard
Stanley, Rt Hon Sir John
Streeter, Gary
Swayne, Desmond
Syms, Robert
Tapsell, Sir Peter
Taylor, Ian (Esher & Walton)
Taylor, John M (Solihull)
Tredinnick, David
Trend, Michael
Tyrie, Andrew
Viggers, Peter
Waterson, Nigel
Whitney, Sir Raymond
Whittingdale, John
Widdecombe, Rt Hon Miss Ann
Wilkinson, John
Willetts, David
Wilshire, David
Yeo, Tim
Young, Rt Hon Sir George

Tellers for the Noes:

Mr. John Randall and
Mr. Geoffrey Clifton-Brown.

Question accordingly agreed to.

27 Jul 2000 : Column 1341

Lords amendment agreed to.

Lords amendments Nos. 13 to 54 agreed to.

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