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Baroness Oppenheim-Barnes: My Lords, before the Minister sits down, can he make it clear that there is no intention to impose any kind of positive discrimination in the appointments, and that the best people for the job will be chosen, regardless of whether they are all men, all women, all black or all white?

Lord Sainsbury of Turville: My Lords, I can give the assurance that the best people for the job will be appointed.

Lord Graham of Edmonton: My Lords, I am grateful to the Minister, in particular for moving his amendments, which go further along the road towards what I was asking for. I get the impression that he is looking for a balance in which there is not a predominance of those with experience in retailing, production, finance or any other field. I was heartened by his reference to the possibility that there would be someone, or perhaps more than one person, with experience of the European regulatory regime. The Minister can be satisfied that I intend to withdraw my amendments, and I am grateful to him for his comments on his own amendments.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

[Amendment No. 7 not moved.]

Lord Hunt of Wirral moved Amendments Nos. 8 to 16:

    Page 195, line 12, after "chairman" insert ", the chief executive"

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    Page 195, line 14, after "chairman" insert ", chief executive"

    Page 195, line 16, after "chairman" insert ", chief executive"

    Page 195, line 21, after "chairman" insert ", chief executive,"

    Page 195, line 22, leave out "either" and insert "any"

    Page 195, line 23, after "chairman" insert ", chief executive"

    Page 195, line 29, after "chairman" insert ", chief executive"

    Page 195, line 33, after "chairman" insert ", chief executive"

On Question, amendments agreed to.

Lord Sainsbury of Turville moved Amendments Nos. 17 and 18:

    Page 196, line 11, at end insert "rules and"

    Page 196, line 12, at end insert—

"(3) The OFT shall from time to time publish a summary of its rules and procedures for dealing with conflicts of interest."

On Question, amendments agreed to.

Clause 3 [Annual plan]:

Lord Sainsbury of Turville moved Amendments Nos. 19 and 20:

    Page 2, line 13, leave out subsection (2) and insert—

"(2) The OFT shall for the purposes of public consultation publish a document containing proposals for its annual plan at least two months before publishing the annual plan for any year."
Page 2, line 15, leave out from "lay" to end of line and insert "before Parliament a copy of each document published under subsection (2) and each annual plan"

On Question, amendments agreed to.

Clause 4 [Annual and other reports]:

Lord Sainsbury of Turville moved Amendment No. 21:

    Page 2, line 24, at end insert—

"(c) a summary of the significant decisions, investigations or other activities made or carried out by the OFT during the year;
(d) a summary of the allocation of the OFT's financial resources to its various activities during the year; and
(e) an assessment of the OFT's performance and practices in relation to its enforcement functions."

On Question, amendment agreed to.

Clause 6 [Provision of information etc. to the public]:

Lord Phillips of Sudbury moved Amendment No. 22:

    Page 3, line 3, after "competition" insert "within a context of social community and environmental responsibility"

The noble Lord said: My Lords, this amendment is comparable to the one moved in Committee, when a number of your Lordships spoke in support of it. Clause 6, entitled "Provision of information etc. to the public", is divided into two parts.

We have no quarrel whatever with Clause 6(1)(b), which gives the OFT the function of

    "giving information or advice in respect of matters relating to any of its functions to the public".

That seems to us on these Benches to be absolutely sensible. It is Clause 6(1)(a) that concerns us. It talks of

    "making the public aware of the ways in which competition may benefit consumers in, and the economy of, the United Kingdom".

That provision is buttressed by Clause 6(2)(a), which gives the OFT the power to publish educational material and, in the following subsection, to

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commission any independent group, body or organisation to produce materials or carry out education. In simple terms, the concern on these Benches is that for education, particularly in schools, one needs a broader matrix than the bare one provided by Clause 6. That is particularly the case given that Clause 6 refers only to promoting public awareness of the benefits of competition. Much heat was generated at Committee stage, during which the Minister expressed himself to be passionate about competition. He said that competition does indeed benefit consumers. We agree. He added that the best form of consumer protection is choice. We agree.

The argument on this amendment is not about free marketeers and anti-free marketeers; it is about the simple fact, which is no great secret, that competition comes in many forms and not all of it is desirable. Let me give a couple of examples of competition that is lawful and certainly red of tooth and claw. What about a firm that exploits foreign workers in their working conditions and pay? That is perfectly lawful. Indeed, one could say that if one were a real competitor in the real, tough economic world, the more we exploit foreign workers to produce cheap products for the shelves here, and to make a profit, the better. But plainly that is not the view of the majority in this House, and I would be staggered if it were the Minister's view. What about, for example, environmental issues? The reckless despoliation of the environment is not unlawful, but it could be highly competitive if one takes a narrow view of that concept. I know that the Minister does not and I read his words only because I want to suggest that both the quotes I gave need to be couched within a broader context of social, community and environmental awareness and responsibility.

I have used those words in the amendment because they appear in the model Companies Bill, which was published after a huge amount of work by the commission sitting on the reform of company law under Dame Mary Arden. Those three words are to be found in Clause 75 of the draft Companies Bill, which talks about the duties to consider, including other matters, in operating and financial reviews of larger companies. Those matters include,

    "the companies' policies on environmental issues; the companies' policies on social and community issues".

There is therefore no doctrinal difference between us and the Government on this clause. The difference lies simply and solely around the issue of education in schools. It has nothing to do with the regulation of business or anything else, but with education in schools. And it is the Government's firm policy that education in schools, which will come as part of the citizenship curriculum, must be broad, impartial and fair.

I refer to what was said by the noble Lord, Lord Borrie, in Committee. The Minister may say that nothing the OFT will do will be less than unbiased and fair and non-propagandist. The noble Lord said:

    "it strikes me that the specific functions of the OFT in the Bill and in the Competition Act are partisan in the promotion of competition. More balanced judgments are made by the

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    Competition Commission and others. In future, it will be part of the job of the Office of Fair Trading, as it has been in the past 30 years, to be partisan in those respects".—[Official Report, 16/6/02; col. 1156.]

We are saying, "Fair enough in all that it does, but not fair enough in schools". It runs directly counter to the obligations which the Government have imposed on themselves statutorily. I read that the statutory order imposing citizenship education directs that pupils should be taught about,

    "how the economy functions, including the role of business and financial services . . . the rights and responsibilities of consumers, employers and employees . . . the wider issues and challenges of global interdependence and responsibility, including sustainable development".

That last phrase replicates in crude terms what the amendment puts into the Bill.

I urge the Government to take a step back and accept that if they are taking, as they are, a specific power on the part of the OFT to educate in schools—or, worse, to get others to do it for them—they must accept that in that regard, if no other, they ought to couch it in a wider social, moral and environmental context. I beg to move.

5.30 p.m.

Baroness Oppenheim-Barnes: My Lords, I apologise in advance to the noble Lord, Lord Phillips, if I sound churlish about the amendment. When I first looked at the amendment, I said to myself, "Oh dear". When I looked at it again, I said, "I absolutely hate this amendment".

At one time I had responsibility for these matters. In order to demonstrate to your Lordships how prejudiced I was in this respect—and the noble Lord, Lord Borrie, will remember it well—I confess that I used to complain bitterly about the public interest criteria in Monopolies and Mergers Commission findings. I felt that it was not narrow enough; I wanted, purely and simply, public interest struck out and the consumer interest put in.

To become too diverse in this matter is to take away from the consumer interest. It is a pure interest and one which is already covered well in the Bill, as quoted by the noble Lord. Employment legislation deals with a great deal of what he has said and other legislation deals with other factors he has raised. In my experience, it is difficult enough to teach children in schools their simple rights and obligations as consumers. So many people have tried to do it and I challenge the noble Lord to go into schools and to question children—even those in the upper classes—about their rights and obligations as consumers. Even today, with all the work that has been done, few will have the slightest idea. That is due in part to the fact that we have had a great deal of confusing legislation, but the fact remains. I would be against any amendment which in these matters sought in any way to mitigate against the pure consumer interest and which would go further than the other issues named in the Bill.

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