|Previous Section||Back to Table of Contents||Lords Hansard Home Page|
On Amendment No. 166C, once a matter has been referred to the Competition Commission, no one, not even the Secretary of State, should be allowed to withdraw it. It should be the duty of the authority to ensure that, by the time the reference is made, the basic reasons for doing so are well established. I beg to move.
Lord Whitty: On Amendment No. 166B, which seeks to place a requirement on the authority to put references in the public domain, that is already practised and Ofwat will have the responsibility to ensure that that continues in line with open and transparent regulation. I do not believe that we need to specify that on the face of the Bill.
Amendment No. 166C is slightly more complex. It removes the Secretary of State's power to veto referrals to the commission by the authority. The water supplier licence conditions are there to implement much of the Government's water supply competition policy. Hence the Bill gives the Secretary of State the power to determine the initial standards of licence. Therefore, it
Baroness Miller of Chilthorne Domer: In the Minister's first reply to the amendment asking for this matter to be put into the public domain, he referred to the fact that Ofwat already does this, so it does not need to be on the face of the Bill. When drafting amendments on something that is already custom and practice, it would be helpful to know when custom and practice mean that there is not a requirement for something to be said on the face of a Bill.
Baroness Byford: I had written that point in my notes. Is such a matter already on the face of other Bills, or is it just normal practice? If it is normal practice, but it is not on the face of any other Bill, then I believe we should start to include it; if it is already in other Bills, then it should be included here, because the principle has already been established.
Baroness O'Cathain: If such a matter is not established, it should be. The reality is that we are not supposed to be mind-readers. Above all, we need clarity and transparency, referring back to the wonderful five Ofcom virtues. I believe that this point is important.
Perhaps I may say to the Minister that, in our discussions on the Competition Billgoing back some timeI did not realise that we had allowed the Secretary of State to have such fantastic power. What happens if the Secretary of State has a brainstorm and goes mad?
Lord Whitty: This may be an appropriate point at which to break the proceedings. Before the Committee adjourns, perhaps I may say, on the issue of what is placed in the public domain, that legislation is inevitably inconsistent as regards what is on the face of the Bill and what is not. The point in regard to this particular proposition is that this is so central to the Government's overall policy on transparent regulation that the assumption can be made. Whether that transfers itself into custom and practice so that it could never be altered becomes a philosophical point. I am not prepared to engage with the noble Baroness on that during the debate on this amendment, which, subject to my noble friend intervening, will be the last
The Duke of Montrose: I thank the Minister for his reply. As this has turned out to be such a hotly contentious issue, we should like to take it away and consider it. I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.
|Next Section||Back to Table of Contents||Lords Hansard Home Page|