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Lord Clinton-Davis: My Lords, does not the argument that has been made fit well with what is in the Bill which does not merely mention competition but also the economy of the United Kingdom of which the environment is an important part?

Lord Sainsbury of Turville: My Lords, I totally agree with the noble Lord. The economic framework is important. However, the point I am trying to make is that if one singles out particular aspects of the social and economic contexts in which competition policy operates and states that the OFT must also focus on those matters, an almost endless list arises of other issues of which it must take account: for example, health and safety issues, employment law and all the other contexts within which competition policy operates.

Lord Phillips of Sudbury: My Lords, I am obliged to the Minister for giving way. There is, of course, a big difference here in that employment law and health and safety issues constitute laws. However, we are talking about a moral framework which is never susceptible to legal intervention within which this matter should be addressed. The Minister makes his own point that a great deal of industrial business and service activity, whilst being competitive and lawful, can be deleterious in other respects.

Lord Sainsbury of Turville: My Lords, that leads me to my next point. If one refers to a moral framework, one should ask what is the competence of the OFT to give views or, indeed, materials on a whole range of other issues. I should place the matter in a realistic context in terms of how it would operate in schools. I believe that our main concern is similar in that context. Citizenship is already taught in schools. It is for schools to decide what materials they use in educating their pupils and the appropriate context for those materials. The noble Lord, Lord Phillips of Sudbury, commented that citizenship covers a much broader area than simply competition. The noble Lord should not worry that this matter will be placed within an inappropriate framework. It is not envisaged that the OFT will allocate significant resources to providing educational materials specifically aimed at schoolchildren. Its efforts will be aimed principally at educating the public at large.

Although I have great sympathy with the viewpoint that has been expressed, if we introduce the other matters that are proposed, we distract the OFT from the job that it is competent to perform and from its important focus; namely, to inform the public with regard to competition. We risk taking the OFT into other waters. I accept that it is proposed that that should be done within a certain framework. However, the OFT should focus on informing the public of the benefits of competition as that is what it is set up to do.

Lord Phillips of Sudbury: My Lords, I am grateful for the Minister's response. I believe that there is a

15 Oct 2002 : Column 744

difference here. I believe that a great deal of the value judgments that have to be made even within the framework of the Bill involve decisions that are not purely economic. The notion of fair trade, for example, is not based on a purely economic concept but on the concept of what is fair. There is no way round that problem. The Minister suggests that by introducing concepts of social community and environmental awareness, one is opening a Pandora's box. First, that is not the case as I have used only those three adjectives in the amendment. Secondly, I agree with the noble Baroness, Lady Howe, that any education, whether offered by the OFT or anyone else, that disregards that matrix of considerations is doomed to failure because it will not achieve its purpose.

I am a little surprised that the Government are not happy to accept the amendment as I believe that it would enforce the work of the OFT. Finally, it does not extend the scope of the OFT; it simply states that if the OFT is to engage in education as opposed to giving information or advice, it must do so in a broader context. Therefore, I wish to seek the opinion of the House.

5.57 p.m.

On Question, Whether the said amendment (No. 22) shall be agreed to?

Their Lordships divided: Contents, 75; Not-Contents, 126.

Division No. 2


Addington, L.
Allenby of Megiddo, V.
Astor of Hever, L.
Avebury, L.
Barker, B.
Blackburn, Bp.
Blaker, L.
Boardman, L.
Bradshaw, L.
Buscombe, B.
Byford, B.
Carlile of Berriew, L.
Clement-Jones, L.
Coe, L.
Craigavon, V.
Dahrendorf, L.
Dholakia, L.
Falkland, V.
Geddes, L.
Goodhart, L.
Goschen, V.
Greaves, L.
Hamwee, B.
Hanningfield, L.
Harris of Peckham, L.
Harris of Richmond, B.
Hayhoe, L.
Higgins, L.
Hodgson of Astley Abbotts, L. [Teller]
Howe, E.
Howe of Aberavon, L.
Howe of Idlicote, B.
Hunt of Wirral, L.
Jacobs, L.
Jopling, L.
Kingsland, L.
Lindsay, E.
Livsey of Talgarth, L.
McColl of Dulwich, L.
MacGregor of Pulham Market, L.
Maclennan of Rogart, L.
Maddock, B.
Mar, C.
Mar and Kellie, E.
Marlesford, L.
Michie of Gallanach, B.
Moynihan, L.
Newby, L.
Newton of Braintree, L.
Northover, B.
Oakeshott of Seagrove Bay, L.
Perry of Walton, L.
Phillips of Sudbury, L. [Teller]
Razzall, L.
Reay, L.
Redesdale, L.
Roberts of Conwy, L.
Rodgers of Quarry Bank, L.
Rogan, L.
Roper, L.
Saltoun of Abernethy, Ly.
Scott of Needham Market, B.
Seccombe, B.
Sharp of Guildford, B.
Sharples, B.
Skelmersdale, L.
Smith of Clifton, L.
Stewartby, L.
Stodart of Leaston, L.
Taverne, L.
Thomas of Walliswood, B.
Tope, L.
Vinson, L.
Wallace of Saltaire, L.
Wilcox, B.


Acton, L.
Ahmed, L.
Alli, L.
Alton of Liverpool, L.
Amos, B.
Andrews, B.
Bach, L.
Barnett, L.
Bassam of Brighton, L.
Berkeley, L.
Bernstein of Craigweil, L.
Billingham, B.
Blease, L.
Borrie, L.
Bragg, L.
Brooke of Alverthorpe, L.
Brookman, L.
Brooks of Tremorfa, L.
Burlison, L.
Campbell-Savours, L.
Chandos, V.
Christopher, L.
Clarke of Hampstead, L.
Clinton-Davis, L.
Cohen of Pimlico, B.
Corbett of Castle Vale, L.
Craig of Radley, L.
Crawley, B.
David, B.
Davies of Coity, L.
Davies of Oldham, L.
Desai, L.
Dixon, L.
Donoughue, L.
Dormand of Easington, L.
Elder, L.
Evans of Parkside, L.
Evans of Watford, L.
Farrington of Ribbleton, B.
Faulkner of Worcester, L.
Fitt, L.
Fyfe of Fairfield, L.
Gale, B.
Gavron, L.
Gibson of Market Rasen, B.
Gilbert, L.
Gladwin of Clee, L.
Golding, B.
Goldsmith, L.
Gordon of Strathblane, L.
Goudie, B.
Gould of Potternewton, B.
Graham of Edmonton, L.
Greenway, L.
Grenfell, L.
Grocott, L. [Teller]
Hardy of Wath, L.
Harrison, L.
Haskel, L.
Haskins, L.
Healey, L.
Hilton of Eggardon, B.
Hogg of Cumbernauld, L.
Hollis of Heigham, B.
Howie of Troon, L.
Hoyle, L.
Hughes of Woodside, L.
Hunt of Chesterton, L.
Hunt of Kings Heath, L.
Islwyn, L.
Janner of Braunstone, L.
Jay of Paddington, B.
Jeger, B.
Jones, L.
Kilclooney, L.
King of West Bromwich, L.
Kirkhill, L.
Layard, L.
Lea of Crondall, L.
Lipsey, L.
Lofthouse of Pontefract, L.
McCarthy, L.
Macdonald of Tradeston, L.
McIntosh of Haringey, L. [Teller]
MacKenzie of Culkein, L.
Marsh, L.
Masham of Ilton, B.
Mason of Barnsley, L.
Merlyn-Rees, L.
Milner of Leeds, L.
Morris of Aberavon, L.
Oppenheim-Barnes, B.
Orme, L.
Patel, L.
Patel of Blackburn, L.
Paul, L.
Pendry, L.
Peston, L.
Plant of Highfield, L.
Prys-Davies, L.
Radice, L.
Ramsay of Cartvale, B.
Rendell of Babergh, B.
Richard, L.
Rooker, L.
Sainsbury of Turville, L.
Sawyer, L.
Sheldon, L.
Simon, V.
Smith of Leigh, L.
Stoddart of Swindon, L.
Stone of Blackheath, L.
Strabolgi, L.
Taylor of Blackburn, L.
Temple-Morris, L.
Thornton, B.
Tomlinson, L.
Turner of Camden, B.
Varley, L.
Walker of Doncaster, L.
Warwick of Undercliffe, B.
Weatherill, L.
Whitty, L.
Williams of Mostyn, L. (Lord Privy Seal)
Williamson of Horton, L.
Woolmer of Leeds, L.

Resolved in the negative, and amendment disagreed to accordingly.

15 Oct 2002 : Column 746

6.7 p.m.

[Amendment No. 23 not moved.]

Clause 11 [Super-complaints to OFT]:

Lord Hunt of Wirral moved Amendment No. 24:

    Page 5, line 4, at end insert—

"( ) In the event that the OFT decides to take no action, and an undertaking has incurred costs as a result of the complaint, the OFT upon the application of the undertaking may make an order that the consumer body which made the complaint shall contribute to the costs of that undertaking."

The noble Lord said: My Lords, investigations by the competition authorities often impose huge costs and other burdens on business. I make no apology for moving this amendment. When there is no action by the competition authorities following a super-complaint against an undertaking, the undertaking should at least be given the opportunity of seeking a contribution to its costs. I cannot foresee that the noble Lord will have any argument against that; there are surely many arguments in favour of it. It would deter frivolous or vexatious complaints. I see no other provision in the Bill that would have that effect. Once again, I stress that investigations impose huge costs and other burdens on business. There is therefore every right for an undertaking, when a business has had to incur considerable cost, to at least have an opportunity to try to get some contribution to its costs. I beg to move.

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