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Lord Maclennan of Rogart: While I recognise the strength of what my noble friend said about the department's commitment, is not the problem that the department is only part of government and that there

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can be much stronger departments-for example, the Treasury and the department for business? We have witnessed the National Grid announce a consultation on covering large parts of rural England with pylons from the North Sea. When that issue comes to be debated within government, we will hear the voices of the Treasury and the Department of Energy and Climate Change, but those debates will be internal. Would it not enormously strengthen my noble friend's department to have an authoritative voice-not just local women's institutes-from an objective body set up for the purpose of giving a view which is clearly not parti pris but is committed to the benefit of the rural areas of this country?

Lord Henley: My Lords, I appreciate that some departments are more equal than others. One of the first things that I learnt sitting at the feet of my noble friend Lord Newton was that the Treasury had a slightly greater say on these matters than other departments. Nevertheless, Defra will play its role in arguing these views in government. I do not think that the CRC would be able to stand up to the Treasury with any greater authority than, for example, my own department, but, as I said in response to earlier remarks, there are a great many other bodies outside that will also make the case for rural communities very strongly. I do not think that spending £4.5 million per year on the CRC is certain to give more prominence to the arguments of rural communities. We will do that, and do it far more cheaply than the CRC.

Lord Greaves: My Lords, before I respond to what the Minister said, I would like to thank everybody who has taken part in the debate. I was delighted that the noble Lord, Lord Grantchester, was representing the Labour Front Bench because at least somebody apart from me was not a past or present Minister. At one stage, the debate was developing into a past and present Ministers' club, with lots of gossip that the rest of us did not quite understand. However, I am grateful to everybody and particularly the former Ministers-midwives and everybody else-who have taken part.

I am not one of those who think that Ministers, even at a junior level, do not have any influence and cannot, with enough energy and commitment, achieve things within their departments and perhaps outside. I spent last Christmas reading Chris Mullin's diaries about his time as various kinds of junior Minister, which give a very cynical view of the person with a minor position and no power whatever. I suspect that he laid it on a little. The diaries are extremely amusing, but I think that he probably overstresses his lack of power and influence.

Having looked at it all from the outside over many years, I have seen that Ministers with energy can achieve things, but one problem that faces all Governments and all ministerial teams is that at some stage they run out of energy and new inspiration. I would not accuse the present Government of having a lack of energy or a lack of determination to do things. In fact, I think that they sometimes rush into things far too quickly, when a little more thought and careful consideration might be helpful, although I understand why they do

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so. However, such energy does not last. The idea that a Minister at a middle or junior level within Defra will have the presence and ability to promote causes on behalf of rural areas, particularly disadvantaged rural areas, that the CRC and its chairman have at the moment is arguable at the very least and possibly wishful thinking.

I understand that the Government have an agenda, which I share to quite a considerable degree, of looking hard at quangos, reducing their costs and doing away with them when they are not doing a useful job or where what they do can be done more efficiently or democratically. I do not disagree with that fundamental wish in any way whatever, but the quangos have to be looked at one by one.

One specific question that I asked, to which I did not get an answer, was whether the State of the countryside report, as a basic piece of essential impartial, independent research, will continue in future even if within Defra. I hope that the Minister might write to us with an answer to that.

I would also like much more information on exactly how the rural champion across government will work. One of the things that a lot of us on the Liberal Democrat Benches have learnt in the past few months is how busy Ministers are and how much of their time is taken up with activities, some of which are clearly extremely vital and some of which I wonder why they are bothering with. I wonder why they do not just say no and get on with doing something useful. It is absolutely clear that competent, keen Ministers have their time and energies fully occupied by the job that they do. Some will cynically say that such Ministers are just being run by civil servants, but I do not think that that is true of good Ministers. Nevertheless, Ministers are very busy people. To have the job of co-ordinating rural policies across government is a pretty big job. The noble Lord, Lord Knight, can tell us how he got on trying to do that kind of thing when he was recently a rural Minister.

The other fundamental question to which I do not think that I have an answer is this: what does the CRC do at present that will not be done in future? The noble Lord, Lord Knight, set out clearly what the CRC does now. What we would like to know is which of those tasks will not be done in future, by Defra or by anybody else. If £4.5 million is to be saved-as the Minister quite rightly said, that is not a small sum, even in these days-what jobs are not going to be done because that money is not being spent? The noble Lord, Lord Henley, said, "I think that its time has come". It is probably inevitable that its time has come, no matter how much we debate it in Committee and at later stages, but it is important that we understand who is going to do what in future. I do not think that we understand that yet.

Some of the quangos-the arm's-length bodies, or whatever they are called-that are being done away with in the long lists in this Bill will not be missed in future. In five or 10 years' time, we will look back at the list and ask ourselves, "What an earth were they? What did they do?". Such quangos will not be missed and we will wonder why we argued about them, but some of the quangos will be missed, including, I suspect,

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the CRC. Life goes round in circles, as we know, and some of those quangos will have to be reinvented in future. It is far better either that we get it right now and do not drive the bulldozer through those that are necessary or, if the organisational arrangements are to change, that we understand at least that robust structures will be set up that will deliver the same kind of thing.

Finally, the Minister said that he did not believe that the CRC could stand up to the Treasury better than a rural advocate within Defra. That may be true in some respects, but the real difference is that the rural advocate within Defra will operate within government and behind the closed doors of government. Some of what he is doing will come out, because we will have debates in Parliament, reports will be produced and leaks will appear in newspapers. By and large, however, that process will take place within government, whereas what the CRC and other similar bodies can do is to take it all out into the public domain so that the research is published. The proposals are public proposals and, as Members of Parliament and your Lordships' House, we can use that information to call Ministers to account, to take part in debates and to take part in legislation. It is much more difficult to prise information from within the department. That is a fundamental difference, which the Government have not got quite right in a number of these issues.

It is customary on these occasions to ask the Minister to write to us and to give us answers to the questions that have been asked that have not been answered. I hope that he will do that after this debate. I will certainly collate the questions that have been asked from all parts of the House, write them down and hope to get more thorough answers from the Government and from the civil servants in Defra and everybody else involved before we come back to Report. We may have to come back to this issue on Report, but in the mean time I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment 28 withdrawn.

9 pm

Amendment 29

Moved by Lord Grantchester

29: Schedule 1, page 16, line 21, leave out "Committee on Agricultural Valuation (the body established under section 92 of the Agricultural Holdings Act 1986)."

Lord Grantchester: I shall speak also to Amendments 35, 36, 38 and 48, which are grouped with this one. Amendment 29 is in my name and that of the noble Baroness, Lady Quin, who apologises to the House that she cannot be present today. I declare my interest as a farmer in Cheshire and I apologise to the House for it having slipped my mind to mention this interest on the previous amendment.

The public bodies within the government department of Defra are what we are discussing today. Some, as the previous amendment showed, go to the heart of the Government's strategic vision for the countryside. I concur that we may well need to look at those issues later as this legislation goes through the House.



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One could probably describe the bodies that I shall refer to in relation to this batch of amendments as not of strategic importance; this is more of a tidying-up exercise. Nevertheless, it is important to bring them to the attention of the House and to ask the Minister to try to clarify what he thinks will be the work of the department, how it will be structured and how the activities undertaken by these bodies will be done within the Government, either by independent experts or within his own department as advisory committees.

Amendment 29 concerns the Committee on Agricultural Valuation. As the Minister said, it is recognised on all sides of the House that the deficit that has been created is consequential on the banking situation, and all sides of the House have proposals to tackle the deficit. We on this side were looking at that committee as a key one to tidy up and abolish in this period. It has not sat for over 10 years and, when it did so, it was largely made up of members of the Central Association of Agricultural Valuers, which has been instrumental in providing advice to Defra and indeed does so now as part of the Tenancy Reform Industry Group, which has been carrying on the work of that committee to great advantage. I understand that the group is looking at draft replacement statutory instruments to be brought in on the end of tenancy valuations, concerning such erudite matters as residual manurial values-before all eyes mist over in a glaze of appreciation-and the volatility of fertiliser prices that make this job so important to the nation.

Amendment 35 is on environment protection advisory committees. On these, we understand that the aim is to establish more flexible non-statutory engagement arrangements at a more local level. The Environment Agency must be able to engage more actively locally with society, the public and business. Effective stakeholder engagement and partnerships are key to successful delivery on the ground. With these amendments, we are seeking to engage the Minister to clarify the successor arrangements that will be put in place. We understand and agree that the design of the detail of this new approach is an important next step. The Environment Agency will be working closely with the chairs and members of the current committees to develop thinking on how best to maximise future local community engagement and to ensure smooth transition with partnerships and local stakeholders. Can the Minister tell us what stage these discussions have reached and clarify that, as this Bill passes through its stages in this House and is enacted, these new arrangements will be programmed to come into being in parallel with these committees being wound up?

Amendment 36 concerns Food from Britain and is a tidying-up exercise, as the body has already been administratively wound down. However, once again, it would be instrumental and helpful to be told what headway the successor arrangements are making with the activity that was carried out by Food from Britain. Looking to my interests in the farming industry, I know that that body has been very important in the past in promoting food from Britain both within this country and overseas. It would be helpful to understand how the successor bodies are being taken forward.



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Amendment 48 concerns regional and local fisheries advisory committees. Will the Minister advise the House on the successor arrangements in that regard? I beg to move.

Lord Clark of Windermere: My Lords, I rise to speak to Amendment 38, which concerns the Home Grown Timber Advisory Committee. I do so in the same spirit as my noble friend on the Front Bench in that I seek to ascertain whether the Government have the right processes in place to take over any jobs that this body may have undertaken. It would be foolish of me to oppose the abolition of this committee, as we stopped it meeting under my watch as chair of the Forestry Commission. I remember it well because we reviewed all our advisory committees and considered that there was no real justification for the Home Grown Timber Advisory Committee. According to the Minister's Answer to a Parliamentary Question, it has not met since September 2005 and fell into abeyance in June 2006 when the members' terms of office expired. In the second part of the Parliamentary Question, I asked what the cost of the body was. The Minister replied that it had cost £625 since November 2005, which is about £125 a year. I suspect that it does not cost that much and that most of that money was incurred in winding up the body in the latter part of 2005 and in 2006, so in essence it is a no-cost body. That is an important point.

I spent this afternoon looking at the Second Reading of the Forestry Bill on 5 August 1919-I was able to do so in view of the delays incurred when another matter was being discussed in the House-which set up the Forestry Commission. It is interesting how much wise debate took place when the Forestry Commission was being established. One thing that was debated at great length was whether Scotland should have its own, separate Forestry Commission. That has not changed. Almost 80 years later devolution took place to a certain extent and great powers were given back to Scotland and to Wales, as well as to England, to run their part of the forestry estate. Flexibility was also built into that legislation, which was then carried forward into the subsequent Acts affecting forestry. There was no Home Grown Timber Advisory Committee; it was simply a central advisory committee. I have never been quite sure why the Government are so intent on abolishing it.

I come back to my other point about the big society, which seems to be the Government's underlying philosophy. This committee was a radical proposal for the time, in 1919. A very radical and progressive Liberal Prime Minister, Lloyd George, was trying-

Lord Henley: In a coalition Government.

Lord Clark of Windermere: Perhaps the coalitions in those days were a bit more radical than the current one. But we will let that lie.

That advisory committee was a link in the new concept of state forestry-forestry belonging to the citizens-being challenged by and running side by side with the private forest interest. The Act said that between six and eight members of the advisory committee

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would be appointed after consultations with forest owners-who I suggest were not exactly supporters of the Labour Party or the Opposition-and that six to eight would come from the timber merchants and allied trades. It was a genuine attempt to try to draw in expertise and to be aware of the interests not so much of those who were involved in state forestry but of those who had great knowledge of the industry. It certainly served the state forest service very well, helped to build up the Forestry Commission and also helped private forestry. That is one reason why, even today, a large body in private forestry wishes to retain the state forest service. However, we will come back to that in later amendments.

I am simply suggesting that this is perhaps a little more than tokenism. Perhaps it is just tidying up-I concede that straight away-but if the committee does not cost anything, why abolish it? Interestingly, the Home Grown Timber Advisory Committee was not set up until 1939, when there was the threat of war and the need for timber. It was established to try to ensure that that need was met. It resonates today that the first edict that it set out, facing the demands of war-it sounds obvious now-was that one should go first for the mature timber, then for the semi-mature timber, and, lastly, for the timber which should be used only in dire emergency. It classified the various parts of the country as to where the main felling should take place. It is relevant today that the two areas that the committee singled out for more or less immediate felling, because the trees were mature, were the New Forest and the Forest of Dean. I was interested that the Business Secretary in the other place, Dr Cable, who I think has a cottage in the New Forest, said recently that the New Forest certainly would not be privatised. I know also that the Forest of Dean is of great concern to my noble friend Lady Royall. We should bear in mind that forestry is a long-term game. It is many years since the end of the war, and those trees that were replanted just after it are now coming to maturity.

I will make a further point about tokenism. When the 1919 Bill had its Second Reading in this House, much of the discussion was about devolution. The term was not used then, but that was what the discussion was about. One of my early tasks at the Forestry Commission was to devise a system of governance that allowed us to have a devolved forestry enterprise, yet at the same time keep a GB entity. We did not have a sufficient critical mass of timber in the three separate countries to sustain a viable body. We had a lot of difficulty with this until we discovered that, just as there was a central advisory committee, it was possible under the original Act to establish three national advisory committees. By reviving these committees that were there in statute, we were able to form a system of governance that has withstood almost a decade and, depending on this Bill, will probably stand the test of time for a while longer. My overall point is that if you have a system of governance with a certain amount of flexibility, it will allow you to deal with contingencies that are unexpected at the time, but which occur in long-term businesses.

I will make two or three further points. The reason why the Forestry Commission and the Home Grown Timber Advisory Committee were established was

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that in 1919, after the war, only 4 per cent of the land in Britain was covered by trees. That figure was almost the lowest in Europe. Over the past 91 years, it has increased to 12 per cent. One may not think that is a huge rise. However, bearing in mind the long-term nature of forestry, it is true that Britain is one of the few countries in the world-if not the only country-that has reafforested. It is quite remarkable, and is recognised by bodies such as the United Nations and by countries such as China that are trying to move into the reafforestation process. Bodies such as the advisory committees have been very helpful to the Forestry Commission in developing that expertise.

My next point concerns the flip side of this, which is timber. We still use a massive amount of timber, even in this world of plastic and synthetics. The Parliamentary Secretary to the Board of Agriculture in 1919 told noble Lords of the day in this House that Britain imported 92 per cent of the timber that it used. The situation has got better-but not a lot. We now import in the region of 85 per cent of the timber supply of this country. This is an important reason why we need advisory committees. We are trying to establish timber and wood-using industries in this country. These are often very labour-intensive. When these companies are considering establishing themselves in the UK, their first question is: can we guarantee a sufficient supply of timber? They almost always come to the Forestry Commission-often through its advisory committees-and say, "Will you guarantee us that supply of 30 or 40 per cent?".

I cite as an example the quite large wood-using power station that was built on Teesside. People would not have gone ahead with that if there had not been a sufficient supply of timber from the state forest to guarantee a critical mass. One might ask, "Why just the state forest?". The answer is simply that the elasticity of supply and demand very much applies. Timber prices go up and down. When they fall, any private owner thinks, "I am not going to put my timber on the market. I'll withhold it and, when the prices rise, I'll put it on the market then". I accept immediately that that makes sense to the forest owner. However, it does not make sense to the timber and wood user, whether it is someone making pallets, chipboard, paper or whatever. Therefore, we need that critical supply. Is the Minister confident that without advisory committees-we should remember that this is only an advisory committee-there will be sufficient advice for government?

My final point relates to one that I made earlier and it concerns the amount of forest cover. Again, when I was at the Forestry Commission, we decided to look at carbon sequestration and the question of meeting our carbon demands. I start with a couple of statistics which I have used in this House before but which I think are worth repeating. Twenty per cent of the world's greenhouse gas emissions are due to deafforestation, and that is equal to the total emissions from the world's transport industries. Reafforestation is a win-win situation and, because we have reafforested our country to a certain extent and are acknowledged as having done so, we believe that we have a role to play. However, that role is effective only if we have advisory committees.



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In order to challenge ourselves on that premise, we established an eminent advisory committee to look at the issue under the chairmanship of Professor Reed. The committee was composed of foresters, climatologists and scientists. We basically came up with the recommendation that a great deal of carbon capture was involved in afforestation. The committee came up with the second statistic that I shall cite to your Lordships. A 4 per cent increase in tree cover in this country would allow us to capture 10 per cent of our carbon emissions. It is something that the previous Government committed to do and I hope that this Government will pursue it. However, without advisory committees, it would not have been possible to come to that conclusion.

I simply ask the Government to bear these points in mind. Instead of abolishing the Home Grown Timber Advisory Committee, which I view as tokenism, why not leave it as an advisory committee and it can be used for some unforeseen contingent problem that may occur in the future?

The Earl of Selborne: My Lords, I defer to no one in my admiration for the noble Lord, Lord Clark, for his distinguished period as chairman of the Forestry Commission. He has made a very powerful case for the role that forestry plays, whether in the public or the private sector. However, the question for the Committee today is whether the Home Grown Timber Advisory Committee will contribute to carbon sequestration and whether it will add to the contribution that forestry makes in this country. A moment's thought suggests that a committee that has not met for quite a long time is perhaps past its sell-by date.

Having said that, I do not want to denigrate in any way the contribution that forestry makes to land management and to meeting some of our essential needs. It is very important that the forestry estate be increased. Whether the Home Grown Timber Advisory Committee has a role to play, I rather doubt. Looking at this group of amendments, we recognise also that the Committee on Agricultural Valuation, as the noble Lord, Lord Grantchester, reminded us, has not met for over 10 years. I think that we can assume that that is a committee that has also met its sell-by date.

I speak, very briefly, to draw attention to Food From Britain. I have enormous admiration for the work of my late friend Lord Walker, who created Food From Britain when he was Minister of Agriculture at a time when he was appalled by agriculture's inability to react to the markets. We had been used to the socialist concept of marketing boards. The farmers-I have to declare an interest, as a farmer and an apple grower-were lamentably incapable of reacting to the needs of supermarkets as those were evolving and to the demands of the market. He pointed out that, unless we had an organisation within Government-within the Ministry of Agriculture, as it was then-that could relate the farmers' priorities adequately and make farmers more aware of the realities of the market, we would lose out to our competitors. That was very successful.

I am sorry that my noble friend Lady O'Cathain is not in her place because I remember vividly that she was one of the five advisers that Peter Walker-as he

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was then-appointed. While recognising that all good organisations have to recognise the realities of time, I would not wish this provision, which will consign Food From Britain to history, to go without record. I am personally enormously grateful for the contribution that it made.

Lord Henley: I shall respond to one particularly lengthy speech from my fellow Cumbrian, the noble Lord, Lord Clark of Windermere, who spoke at some length, allegedly about the Home Grown Timber Advisory Committee, although most of his remarks related to debates that we will have later on the Forestry Commission. Those debates will, fortunately, not be tonight and I will respond to those remarks on that occasion.

With these amendments, those noble Lords who can remember their Monty Python were dealing with dead parrots. Amendment 29, in the name of the noble Lord, Lord Grantchester, relates to the Committee on Agricultural Valuation, which, as he said, has not met for something like 10 years. From a sedentary position I said, on two or three occasions, "19 years". Is there any purpose in keeping such a body going? It has withered on the vine; it is a dead parrot.

Moving on to Food From Britain, as I think others have said, FFB ceased its activities in 2009 following a decision by the previous Administration to reduce its grant in aid-one of those rare occasions on which the previous Government did something to reduce expenditure. It is another dead parrot.

Coming to the Home Grown Timber Advisory Committee, we will address during later debates the matters relating to the Forestry Commission that the noble Lord, Lord Clark, regaled us with at some length, but he was kind enough to remind us that, under his chairmanship of the Forestry Commission, that body last met in, I think he said, September 2005. Yet again, it is another dead parrot, which I do not think it is necessary to keep going. The noble Lord said that abolishing the advisory committee is not going to save any money and he carefully quoted from, I think, my Written Answer that it had cost something like £625 in total since 2005. He reckoned, quite rightly, that most of that money was probably in the earlier years-there were very little savings. However, I do not think that we should keep bodies going merely because they are costing nothing. If they are not doing anything, why not wind them up? This is a very useful tidying-up operation.

9.30 pm

Lord Clark of Windermere: I just want to make myself absolutely clear. The Home Grown Timber Advisory Committee was not set up until 1939. The original Act did not include such a body, but it did include an advisory committee that could be used for different purposes. My point is: if it is not costing any money, is it not useful to have in your armoury an advisory committee that can change its interest to face the problem that you may have to deal with? That is the thrust of what I am arguing.

Lord Henley: I see things differently from the noble Lord. If it is not doing anything, if it has not met since 2005, if it is what I have described in Monty Python

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terms as a dead parrot, why do we not get rid of it? We do not need to have it in our armoury. Should we need such a thing again, we can set up an appropriate panel as necessary. It is not necessary to keep it going as the noble Lord wishes.

We have dealt with quite a few dead parrots. I am sure that the noble Lord, Lord Grantchester, would accept that they are dead, dead and very dead, particularly the one that has not sat since 2005.

I now turn to the two remaining bodies: the environment protection advisory committees and the regional and local fisheries advisory committees. They are statutory committees that advise the Environment Agency. The Government's aim in proposing the abolition of those committees in Schedule 1 is not to remove that advisory function. Indeed, both committees have provided valuable advice to the agency, and it will continue to need that advice. However, having two sets of committees on a regional, statutory basis creates a degree of inflexibility and inefficiency that is now proving unduly restrictive.

Defra now wishes the Environment Agency to establish more flexible non-statutory arrangements that will enable better local engagement of all interested parties at the catchment level, including in delivery, together with a more integrated approach between environmental protection, conservation and fisheries. Such a structure will have the flexibility to evolve as needed, without the constraints of a prescriptive statutory remit at the regional level, and will better address local priorities while working with partners and communities to deliver improved local engagement. That will enable civil society to take the lead where appropriate, rather than continue the current focus on advising the Environment Agency.

I hope that noble Lords will accept that. I appreciate that those two bodies are slightly different from the earlier ones, but I hope that the noble Lord will accept my basic premise that certainly three out of the five are very, very dead parrots indeed. I therefore hope that he will feel that he can withdraw his amendment.

Lord Grantchester: I thank the Minister for that clarification. On this side of the House, we will not be tempted to enter into his script of re-enacting Monty Python and claim that the parrot is only half dead. We will agree to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment 29 withdrawn.

Amendment 30

Moved by Lord Borrie

30: Schedule 1, page 16, line 23, leave out "Competition Service."

Lord Borrie: My Lords, the Competition Service, to which the amendment applies, is a very small cog in the wheel of competition policy, which this Government, the previous Government and most Governments over many years have regarded as a vital part of policy for the British economy. Competition is good for the economy. I question the Government's reasoning for listing the Competition Service among the bodies that should be abolished under Schedule 1.



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It was created under the Enterprise Act 2002 as an executive non-departmental public body to fund and provide support services for the Competition Appeal Tribunal, the top body in court terms, which hears appeals on matters relating to competition. The Competition Service's work is dedicated entirely to the Competition Appeal Tribunal. I do not know whether it has been officially announced, and the Minister will no doubt tell me if I am wrong, but I understand that the Government have in mind that in future the Competition Appeal Tribunal, which will no longer have this dedicated service of the Competition Service to assist it, will be supported and serviced by the general Tribunals Service, which was not in existence in 2007, and therefore the Government could not then make it available for the Competition Appeal Tribunal.

The function of the Competition Appeal Tribunal, as I have indicated, is as an appeal body from the Competition Commission, and it is obvious to everyone concerned that its independent judicial role must be backed up by an independent administrative service. That is so at present. The Competition Appeal Tribunal gets an independent service and, as I understand it, is very satisfied with the service it receives from this body that the Government wish to abolish. There is no question of this public body, the Competition Service-I revert to the discussion on the previous matter-being a dead parrot, having no function. It has an important and useful administrative function.

It should be said that the Competition Appeal Tribunal has a UK-wide jurisdiction. It covers not just England and Wales, but Scotland too. It hears appeals and judicial reviews on competition matters and other related regulated matters, and it has a High Court judge as president, so it is a high-powered, much-respected body. My understanding is that when competition judges from different parts of the world meet together, this body we have in Britain is regarded as a very efficient and effective judicial body. The small-the Minister will, no doubt, indicate how much it costs and so on-Competition Service, which supports the Competition Appeal Tribunal, is virtually part of it. In effect, the Competition Appeal Tribunal administers itself, so if it is abolished, it would be in a much weaker position and would have to go to the more general body, the Tribunals Service, where people would have to be specially trained for the relatively rare cases it received on matters of competition. It would be very different if the Competition Appeal Tribunal was dependent on the large, general Tribunal Services for its support. I think that should be a matter of concern. Any savings from the abolition of the Competition Service seem to me to be most unlikely. It may, indeed, cost more because of the training required for the staff of the general Tribunals Service in order to cope with competition cases.

Moreover-and this is a matter on which I should be grateful for an answer-I understand that the Competition Appeal Tribunal and the Competition Service have UK-wide jurisdiction. I think I said that a little earlier, but what I want to say now is that the Tribunals Service, to which the Government seem to intend this body should go for administrative support, has jurisdiction in England and Wales only, and it is being considered by the Government for merger with

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the Courts Service, which makes a certain amount of sense. The Courts Service covers England and Wales, and the Tribunals Service is largely England and Wales, but it would not be in this particular instance. I wonder whether it is intended that if the Competition Appeal Tribunal is dealing with, say, a Scottish case, it would be administered differently from when it is dealing with an English case. Certainly, there would be expense, trouble and difficulty in training if it were otherwise. I beg to move.

Lord Young of Norwood Green: My Lords, noble Lords will be relieved to hear that I do not propose detaining us for long, because my noble friend Lord Borrie has put the kernel of the case. I just want to make a couple of points. We are told that a working group is currently examining the case for abolishing this body. Early in 2011, it will report to the Secretary of State for Justice and the Secretary of State for Business with its recommendations. No final decisions will be taken before then. Apparently, the working group consists of BIS, TS, HMT and Competition Service officials. It is examining all the relevant aspects of a possible transfer and abolition, including financial, legal, judicial and policy. It aims to produce a report for Ministers that sets out the pros and cons of such an abolition and transfer. If that consultation is taking place, it seems to us rather strange that this should appear in Schedule 1. Would it not be preferable if we awaited the outcome of the consultation process? All the other points in relation to this have been made. Given the time, I await eagerly the Minister's response.

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Department for Business, Innovation and Skills (Baroness Wilcox): My Lords, I thank the noble Lord, Lord Borrie, for his amendment because it means that we have to look carefully at what we have said and what we are doing. With his background in the Office of Fair Trading and my experience of working with him over the years, I know how valuable his opinion is in these matters. He has rightly said that the Competition Appeal Tribunal was created by the Enterprise Act 2002. It hears appeals on competition and regulated industry cases and is independent from other competition bodies, such as the OFT and the Competition Commission, because it hears appeals against their decisions. Rightly, he explained how special it is.

The Competition Service was created by the Enterprise Act to provide administrative and other support to the Competition Appeal Tribunal. It has no function other than being a service for the Competition Appeal Tribunal. The Government believe that the way in which this function is being provided is not making the most effective use of resources and that there may be cost savings and increased efficiencies if the functions of the Competition Service were transferred to the Tribunals Service, to which the noble Lord referred.

The consequence of this would be transferring the Competition Appeal Tribunal, which would then receive its support from the Tribunals Service. The Competition Service would then be abolished. However, no final decision has been taken. As the noble Lord, Lord Young, said, a working group has been set up to test the case for making this proposed abolition and transfer. It is a decision that we will not take lightly. The

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working group will report to Ministers in BIS and the Minister of Justice in early 2011. They will then decide whether to proceed with the abolition and the transfer. In carrying out this review, the Government are clear that there should be no adverse impact on the operation of the Competition Appeal Tribunal, which would operate as an independent tribunal under the aegis of the Tribunals Service. I hope that the noble Lord, Lord Borrie, finds that reassuring.

9.45 pm

The objective of putting the Competition Service into Schedule 1 is therefore to allow the Government to increase efficiency and effectiveness, and to provide better value for money in a way that ensures that the Competition Appeal Tribunal is supported pending the outcome of the review process that I have described. That covers the question put by the noble Lord, Lord Young, on why the Competition Service is included in Schedule 1 rather than Schedule 7 when the decision to abolish it has not yet been taken. I repeat that we are currently testing the case for abolishing the service, so we have included it in Schedule 1 to facilitate the proposed abolition. However, the decision to abolish is subject to further discussion and final advice to Ministers in 2011.

On the Scottish case and the question of devolution put by the noble Lord, Lord Borrie, this issue is being looked at by the working group. Other tribunals are in a similar position and do not have any problems, but I emphasise to the noble Lord that this is being looked at by the group. I expect the review to reach its conclusions before the Bill reaches the statute book and I assure both noble Lords, Lord Borrie and Lord Young, that the comments they have made in the debate will be taken into account in coming to a final decision. I should also say that Edward Davey, the Minister responsible for competition issues in another place, met only last night with Sir Gerald Barling, the president of the Competition Appeal Tribunal, to listen to his concerns. Should the working group conclude that if there is not a convincing case for abolition and transfer, it just will not happen.

Given that and any other conversations that the noble Lord, Lord Borrie or Lord Young, may wish to hold with me between now and Report and by the

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time the report comes in, I hope that the noble Lord will feel able to withdraw his amendment.

Lord Borrie: My Lords, I am most grateful to my noble friend Lord Young of Norwood Green for speaking. He made a significant point in saying that if the Government have not yet entirely made up their mind about abolition, this body should never have been included in Schedule 1. I do not think, with respect to the noble Baroness, that she answered that satisfactorily because it could have been included in Schedule 7 if there is such a degree of uncertainty. But I add that I am delighted that there is uncertainty because it shows that the Government are willing to think again about the matter. Further, the fact that they are having discussions with Sir Gerald Barling, the president of the tribunal, is a good thing because, as I indicated earlier, the tribunal and the Competition Service are really one and the same body. I am sure that no one, neither the Government nor anyone else, would want that body to be less effective and efficient than it appears to be according to its worldwide reputation at the moment.

I am also delighted to learn from the noble Baroness that the matter of UK-wide jurisdiction is being considered by the working group. All I can say in a more general way, if I may be permitted, is that it is a great pity that working groups, whether on this particular public body or on others, were not set up before we rushed into a long list of bodies to be abolished in Schedule 1. I thank the noble Baroness and of course I shall withdraw my amendment.

Amendment 30 withdrawn.

House resumed.

Royal Assent

9.49 pm

The following Acts were given Royal Assent:

Consolidated Fund Act,

Identity Documents Act,

Loans to Ireland Act.

House adjourned at 9.49 pm.


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