Finally, what are the Minister’s views on progress on pay gaps for other strands of discrimination; for example, religion or belief, age, race, disability, and sexual orientation? Do the Government intend to do any research or take any action on those matters too, and if so, when?

I welcome this part of the Bill and the amendments which will improve it significantly, but I do not believe that any of us can rest on our laurels on this matter. I am sure the Minister will agree.

Baroness Stowell of Beeston: My Lords, I am grateful to the noble Baroness for her support of our amendments. The Government very much believe in and are strongly committed to equal pay and the important laws that already exist. If there were enough time, and perhaps on another occasion, I might recount some of the stories that my mother used to tell me about when she first arrived in Nottingham as a teenager and was working in big factories and was very miffed to find that the men were paid a lot more than she was paid for doing the same job.

Businesses should be encouraged to make progress on complying with these important laws. Where it is not necessary, we should avoid a statutory approach in terms of making them comply. I recognise the point that the noble Baroness was making about progress in this area. There has been progress, but clearly more needs to be done. That is why this Government have introduced some measures to increase transparency on how pay is reflected in organisations. There seems to be quite a positive response to those voluntary measures.

We think that equal pay is so important, so we also believe that it is right to introduce these mandatory equal pay audits for businesses that have failed to comply with the law. When the law has been broken, they need to be forced to address that. That is why we believe that this is the right approach to take.

The noble Baroness raised some questions for me to respond to. She asked why equal pay audits are not available as an automatic right. We believe that carrying out a systematic pay audit of staff can be burdensome, and we do not want to place unnecessary burdens on employers who have done nothing wrong. We also feel that some employers are already carrying out these equal pay audits on a periodic basis and are using

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them in a constructive and good way. We do not want them to feel that they are being unnecessarily penalised when they are already doing the right thing.

The noble Baroness asked whether we thought that, once this measure is in force, the equal pay audits will simply push employers to settle equal pay claims. Our view on that is that if any employer were facing a continuing claim against it on equal pay grounds, it would soon find that it would not be cost effective to keep settling those claims. I do not accept that that would be a consequence of this.

The noble Baroness asked why the equal pay audit would not cover other protected characteristics. As she and I have acknowledged, equal pay legislation for men and women has been in place for some 40 years. We think it is right to focus the audit on sex-based pay differentials alone as only there is there a specific right to equal pay, and the appropriate route of redress for discrimination due to any protected characteristic other than sex in matters relating to pay, is through the discrimination provisions in the Equality Act.

The noble Baroness also asked how the timeframe for carrying out an audit would be decided. New Section 139A of the Equality Act allows employment tribunals to be given discretion in,

“deciding whether its order has been complied with”.

I think those are all the questions that the noble Baroness—

Baroness Thornton: Perhaps the noble Baroness could write to me about what the time limits are, as that is quite important. I do not want to delay the Grand Committee on that matter, so I will accept an answer in handwriting.

Baroness Stowell of Beeston: I will follow that up in writing. It is worth making the point that there will be a second consultation on the detail of how equal pay audits are carried out. It is possible that that might be reflected in it, but I do not know for sure, so I will not try to guess any more on that matter. I shall confirm this in writing to the noble Baroness. I hope that I have covered all the points that she has raised with me today.

Amendment 58GA agreed.

Amendments 58GB and 58GC

Moved by Baroness Stowell of Beeston

58GB: Clause 74, page 73, leave out lines 37 to 41 and insert—

“(7) The first regulations under this section must specify an exemption period during which the requirement to order an equal pay audit does not apply in the case of a business that—

(a) had fewer than 10 employees immediately before a specified time, or

(b) was begun as a new business in a specified period.

(8) For the purposes of subsection (7)—

(a) “specified” means specified in the regulations, and

(b) the number of employees a business had or the time when a business was begun as a new business is to be determined in accordance with the regulations.”

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58GC: Clause 74, page 73, line 41, at end insert—

“( ) Before making regulations under this section, a Minister of the Crown must consult any other Minister of the Crown with responsibility for employment tribunals.”

Amendments 58GB and 58GC agreed.

Clause 74, as amended, agreed.

5 pm

Amendment 58H

Moved by Lord Stevenson of Balmacara

58H: After Clause 74, insert the following new Clause—

“Relationship between an insolvent company and its suppliers

(1) Section 233 of the Insolvency Act 1986 (supplies of gas, water, electricity, etc) is amended as follows.

(2) In subsection (3)(a) at the end insert “or other supplier”.

(3) In subsection (3)(b) at the end insert “or other supplier”.

(4) In subsection (3)(d) at the end insert “or other supplier”.

(5) After subsection (3)(d) insert—

“(e) a supply of computer hardware or software or infrastructure permitting electronic communications.”

(6) After subsection (3) insert—

“(3A) Any provision in a contract between a company and a supplier of goods or services that purports to terminate the agreement, or alter the terms of the contract, on the happening of any of the events specified in subsection (1) is void.””

Lord Stevenson of Balmacara: My Lords, one of the key aims of the Enterprise and Regulatory Reform Bill is to encourage long-term growth. Key to this is promoting the rescue of potentially viable companies that are facing short-term financial difficulties.

Suppliers are a company’s lifeblood. Companies cannot continue to operate without them yet, under existing legislation, suppliers can currently take a number of unreasonable actions when they hear a business is in trouble. Struggling companies can often be faced with extortionate payments, being moved onto more expensive tariffs or with certain key suppliers withdrawing their services altogether. This behaviour frequently leads to the unnecessary liquidation of potentially viable businesses, which is bad news not only for creditors but also for jobs and the economy. The company R3 has estimated that a change in the law could result in approximately 2,300 additional business rescues a year and increased returns to creditors.

It is true that Section 233 of the Insolvency Act 1986 currently prohibits utilities suppliers from withdrawing supply but it does not stop any other supplier, no matter how crucial, withdrawing supply or imposing a higher tariff or payment before agreeing to continue to supply. It also fails to prevent any supplier from raising its tariff once a business enters insolvency. These actions can prevent any chance of business rescue, damn the business to closure, and reduce dividends for creditors. We suggest that this legislation should be updated in the following ways to help rescue more businesses and save jobs.

Certain suppliers often use the advent of insolvency to extract “ransom payments” before they continue to supply the company. Furthermore, while utilities suppliers

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listed under Section 233 cannot withhold supply, there is nothing to prevent them moving an insolvent company onto a much higher tariff. We suggest that Section 233 should include a provision to prevent the exercise of contractual termination provisions on the grounds of insolvency alone, and should prevent suppliers of essential services from using their position to extract so-called ransom payments as a condition for continued supply, provided that the company continued to pay under existing contractual terms.

While original sellers of utilities services are prevented by the Insolvency Act from terminating their contracts on insolvency, on-sellers of telecoms services and equipment are not covered by the legislation, even though they are every bit as important to the business community—increasingly, these days. In addition, other services, such as IT and software suppliers, which are vital to business survival in the 21st century, are freely able to stop supplying a company on the ground of insolvency. Section 233 sets out the suppliers to which these provisions apply—currently, gas, electricity, water and communications. We suggest including in this list certain additional suppliers deemed essential for the continued operation of the business, particularly IT suppliers and on-sellers of utilities that are not covered by the original definition. A precedent for this change was set by Regulation 14 of the Investment Bank Special Administration Regulations 2011, which prevents suppliers of essential services such as financial data, computer hardware and data processing from withholding supply in the event of administration.

Finally, it is important to note that these changes expose suppliers to minimal risk, because they are paid as a priority, ahead of all other creditors during the insolvency. This is not about special treatment for insolvent businesses, but about preventing suppliers taking advantage of an insolvency and leapfrogging other creditors, at the expense of the business’s survival.

I turn to Amendment 58HZA in the group. The Finance Act 2009 established a duty on HMRC to produce a report each year on its adherence to its charter, which sets out the rights and obligations of taxpayers. Our amendment asks for HMRC’s annual report to consider a particular issue, consumer debt, and to relate that to the objectives in its annual business plan. One of the recurrent themes raised during the debates we held recently in your Lordships’ House on the Financial Services Bill was the need for the new regulatory structures to have the consumer at the centre of their thinking and practice. We have had not dissimilar debates on earlier sections of this Bill in relation to the new Competition and Markets Authority, to which we will return on Report.

This amendment is in the same vein, although the target is the HMRC, and is relatively uncontroversial and not particularly burdensome because it simply requests the HMRC to report additionally about what it is finding about levels of personal debt in the UK. This will be useful data for all those interested in this area, and might over time help to sensitise HMRC to what impact it is having on those struggling with unmanageable personal debts. I declare my interest as chair of StepChange, the leading debt charity. Its figures show that its median client owes more than

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£20,000 to five different creditors, with the bulk in credit cards and personal loans, and other consumer credit products. They also include mortgage arrears, rent arrears and, increasingly, fuel and utility debts, income tax and council tax. Nearly half the people who StepChange help report that unemployment or a reduced income was the main reason for their debt problems. However, people also say that life events such as illness and separation can quickly overwhelm family finances and cause or contribute to mounting debts. What StepChange finds, in fact, is that debt is rarely a problem in isolation—there are nearly always other factors that need to be addressed, including a particular concern of ours, which is the link between problem debt and depression. Nearly a half of StepChange’s clients say they had been worrying about their debts for a year or more before seeking help from a debt service provider. Around a third told the charity that their debt problems had weakened their relationships or led to a break-up. Nearly half said that debt had shattered their self-confidence to support themselves and their family.

Things changed in the personal debt world in about 2006-07, but the pre-crash boom in consumer credit also remains a key part of the UK debt narrative. Even after several years of near-zero lending, the total of outstanding secured and unsecured debt is still some 91% higher than it was 10 years ago. It is a pretty bad picture. Recent research by the Financial Inclusion Centre concluded that some 6.2 million households are currently either already in financial difficulties or at risk of getting there. And it is going to get worse. The IFS estimates that real median household incomes will fall by 7.1% between 2009-10 and 2013-14 as a result of low growth and fiscal tightening—the largest decline since the 1974 to 1977 fall of 7.5%. Recent research published by the Joseph Rowntree Foundation predicts an increase in both relative and absolute poverty between 2009 and 2020. Unemployment remains at a stubbornly high 8.3%, or 2.65 million people, and more than one in five young workers are without a job. That is particularly worrying as we know that time spent not in employment, education or training as a young adult can have a scarring effect as well as reducing lifetime earnings.

At the same time, we are experiencing an extended period where households are facing rising costs for essential goods and services. Food, fuel and transport costs are rising sharply, and we will sooner or later face a rise in interest rates, which are unnaturally low at present. Figures from the Financial Inclusion Centre show that, if living costs rise by more than £50 per week, it would double the percentage of households, currently 30%, who have no spare cash at the end of the month. That is the rather grim background to our amendment. I apologise for taking the Committee’s time, but it is important to get the context so that we can focus more closely on the amendment.

We need to know more about personal debt—how it arises, and how people cope with it. HMRC is a major player in this area, and it is important that it participates in the research that is needed and contributes to finding solutions to the problems that currently exist. Reporting on the situation that it finds each year would be a great step forward. I beg to move.

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Lord Razzall: My Lords, I have considerable sympathy with the amendment proposed by the noble Lord, Lord Stevenson, and the noble Baroness, Lady Hayter. These issues are always extremely tricky in that it is a matter of getting the balance right between the wish of companies or individuals to carry on trading following an insolvency action and that of creditors to protect their interests. There is a slightly wider issue of pre-pack administrations and sale of businesses where the major losers are the unsecured creditors. That is something that your Lordships have looked at from time to time to see whether any change needs to take place. This is a relatively small amendment to marginally shift the balance in relation to organisations which, although insolvent in one form or another, are carrying on trading. We have had a lot of evidence—obviously on the Labour side as well as on our side—that there are quite significant occasions when the suppliers of these services, rather than cutting off the service, say that they will carry on the service but charge a significant extra amount. That seems not to be conducive and, in this case, shifts the balance far too far away from the creditors’ interests. Therefore, I think that this amendment is very appropriate and the Government should consider it seriously.

Lord Mitchell: My Lords, I had not intended to talk about what I am talking about now, but it is pertinent, particularly as the noble Lord, Lord Razzall, mentioned pre-pack administration. I would like to say a little more about that.

Some pretty awful stuff is going on out there. Pre-pack administration is a situation in which a company is in trouble, particularly with its creditors, and is just about hanging on, when at the very same time some influential shareholders get together with a friendly administrator and say that they will put the company into administration. They suggest that the moment that it is put into administration there will be just a short period of time in which to sell it, then they will come in with company mark 2, which will buy the assets and business from the administrator and start up again, often with a very similar name. The effect of doing that is that the small creditors, which is the area that I care about because they are generally SMEs, and the small shareholders, get absolutely stuffed, because the company ceases to exist—and it then in its revised form continues with a different name and some of the same shareholders. They have an agreement with their banker. They have dumped all the toxic stuff into the river and moved on and started the company again. This does goes on; I have seen lots of examples of it happening. In fact, I am a minority shareholder in a company and there was a time when the majority shareholder was threatening to put the company into pre-pack, which would have meant me losing my shareholding. This was several years ago but I have experienced the threat of it. In effect, it never happened but it is one of the weapons that a company can use to dump shareholders and creditors. I put this down as something that I might come back to. I am not expecting the Minister necessarily to come back on any key points but I just want to make that point.

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Viscount Younger of Leckie: My Lords, this amendment seeks to amend the Insolvency Act 1986 to prevent suppliers withdrawing their services from a company after it enters formal insolvency. The amendment also seeks to address concerns about whether all utility providers are bound by an existing provision to prevent them demanding so-called ransom payments as a condition of continuing supply, which is an issue that the noble Lord, Lord Stevenson, highlighted in his speech. In addition, it seeks to extend that provision to IT suppliers.

The Government recognise the concerns that have been raised here and are looking very closely at these issues. My noble friend Lord Razzall recognised the difficulty in creating a balance here. We are committed to exploring any option which might help to rescue viable businesses and jobs, or which would improve the outcome for creditors of insolvent companies. The UK’s insolvency regime is very well regarded internationally. The regime continues to rank highly in World Bank reports for its ability to deliver quick and effective business rescue mechanisms. We want to maintain that standing and, indeed, build upon it.

However, I am sure noble Lords will recognise that this is a complex issue and that proper consideration must be given to the consequences that might result from such a change. For example, forcing suppliers to continue to supply an insolvent business might interfere with commercial behaviours and contractual rights. Freedom of contract is an important tenet in English law. Restricting a supplier’s right to terminate might also lead to knock-on insolvencies and could affect the pricing of contracts. While we recognise the advantages that such an amendment might bring, in the light of the important issues it raises, the Government wish to understand more clearly the consequences before deciding whether, and if so how, to change the law. In that way, we can satisfy ourselves that the right balance is being struck between the competing interests. I thank noble Lords for tabling this amendment and I assure them that the Government will consider this important issue very carefully.

Turning to Amendment 58HZA, this proposed new clause would require the annual report on HMRC’s charter to include a review of how its standards and values interacted with HMRC’s strategic objectives for the relevant year. It would also require the report to be made with the aim of taking a long-term view when considering proposals from individuals to repay their debts. The charter sets out HMRC’s role and the standards of behaviour and values to which the department aspires when dealing with everyone. The charter contains nine rights and three obligations. Examples include: the right to help and support; honest and even-handed treatment; professional behaviour; and acting with integrity. HMRC has six strategic objectives. These include improving the customer experience and maximising revenue to close the tax gap. The standards and values set out in the charter cover all aspects of HMRC’s work to meet these objectives, as well as its interactions with individuals and businesses.

At this point, I want to acknowledge the reference made in the speech of the noble Lord, Lord Stevenson, to StepChange. He produced some statistics and used

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the word “grim”. They are indeed grim figures, which I listened to extremely carefully. Whether HMRC should report on levels of personal debt was a question that the noble Lord raised. We very much recognise the issues that he raised about vulnerable customers and consumers, and the level of personal debt that he highlighted so eloquently. The Government very much recognise the need to look at these issues and we are doing so, which I should stress goes beyond HMRC’s remit.

5.15 pm

As regards the “Time to Pay” scheme, HMRC already takes a long-term view to collecting debts in this respect. “Time to Pay” arrangements have always formed part of HMRC’s approach to collecting tax. Such arrangements are agreed with businesses and individuals to enable HMRC to collect the tax over an agreed period. This approach provides a better return for the Exchequer than forcing a viable business into insolvency or an individual into bankruptcy. I thought it would be helpful to bring this into the debate given the intervention of the noble Lord, Lord Stevenson.

The noble Lord, Lord Mitchell, referred to pre-packs. I reassure him that we have been listening carefully to the concerns that have been expressed about the use of pre-pack procedures, especially where sales are back to the connected partners, and have met with key stakeholders to discuss the issue. We have invited those who complain about the procedure to provide evidence of abuse, so that this can be taken up with the regulatory bodies. We have already improved transparency for creditors and the introduction of SIP 16 has improved the information provided to creditors in pre-pack sales. The regulatory bodies are in the process of revising SIP 16 to tighten up further the information which must be disclosed to creditors. This should provide greater confidence that the pre-pack sale is in the interests of creditors.

We are continuing to monitor information disclosed under SIP 16 reports and will report on our findings. I very much relate to the anecdote recounted by the noble Lord concerning companies that go insolvent and then re-emerge, days or weeks later, under a different guise. There was an instance of that rather close to home for me concerning a building company where that did, indeed, happen. I reassure the noble Lord that we are looking at those very important issues. With the assurances I have given about considering the important issue raised in Amendment 58H, I hope that the noble Lord and, indeed, the noble Baroness, will withdraw the amendment.

Lord Stevenson of Balmacara: My Lords, I thank the noble Lords, Lord Razzall and Lord Mitchell, for participating in this debate. We have ranged a little further than the original terms but it was useful to have that exchange on pre-packs. I think that the main focus of the comments from the noble Lord, Lord Mitchell, was more on the interests of shareholders than creditors but it still comes back to the same point in the end. There is a bit of an issue here and I am glad to hear that it is being discussed.

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I shall deal with these two amendments in reverse order. As regards the points in the second amendment about the role of the Inland Revenue, I heard what the Minister said. However, I think that the problem is exactly as he stated it but in reverse. If your primary concern—it is not a wrong concern—is that the purpose of the Inland Revenue is to maximise revenue to ensure that government services and so on may be maintained, you may have to regard vulnerable consumers and others who have difficulties as a slightly lower priority. It is true that there are nine rights and three obligations in the wonderful Inland Revenue charter but none of them mentions either of those issues in any great detail.

It is more a question of tone and approach. It is true that we have done less badly in this recession than in many other recessions, largely because the banks and other private institutions have been extraordinarily generous in terms of forbearance. That was achieved in dialogue with the Government of the day and has been continued by the current Government. However, without that there would have been a huge hole in the public fabric and services which it would have been impossible to tolerate. There are ways in which we can reach out to the vulnerable consumers that we are talking about; we have those at the heart of my charity. What I was trying to get across in the amendment was that perhaps we could have a broader discussion involving Treasury Ministers to take account of some of these issues.

This is not the time for this but, as regards much of the insolvency and the other areas with which we are dealing; it seems we are gradually finding 20th-century solutions to 19th and 18th-century problems. The idea, which I think I have mentioned in other places, that somehow there is an unimpeachable line of integrity between the creditor and the debtor is at variance with the reality of what happens when vulnerable consumers get themselves into difficulty. It is time for us to have a mature discussion about people who are facing the possibility of going bankrupt.

Forbearance, for all its huge pleasures, is a wonderful approach, but is totally without a statutory framework. Does that need to be considered? Even when forbearance is operating and we are talking about keeping people in a family home which they would otherwise have to have left, is forbearance right if, as a result, they can neither heat that home nor feed themselves there? These are issues that we do not get quite right; there is a black-and-white approach to them. This amendment tries to say, “Perhaps we can begin by gathering the figures and thinking again about how these things operate”. Using the rights and privileges that the Revenue has above and against all other creditors is obviously important in terms of making sure that we maximise revenue, but that is not necessarily right in terms of societal norms and values. I am sorry to have taken so long but it is important to get that on the record.

Regarding Amendment 58H, I am glad that the Minister feels that there is something there to look at again. I would be happy to participate in any meetings or discussions he might have, wearing both, or one of, my hats. I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

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Amendment 58H withdrawn.

Amendment 58HZA not moved.

Clauses 75 to 77 agreed.

Clause 78 : Extent

Amendment 58HA

Moved by Viscount Younger of Leckie

58HA: Clause 78, page 75, line 39, after “19” insert “(and section 63(3) so far as it relates to those paragraphs)”

Viscount Younger of Leckie: Noble Lords will be aware that the reforms to the debtor-initiated bankruptcy process being introduced by the Bill remove the order-making function from the court and replace it with a new administrative process. These are minor and technical amendments to the “Extent” provisions in Clause 78 relating to those reforms. Individual insolvency law is a devolved matter in Scotland and these reforms will have no substantive effect on legislation in Scotland.

The jurisdiction of the adjudicator is limited to the determination of bankruptcy applications received from debtors who meet the jurisdictional criteria of having resided or traded in England and Wales for the required period. However, certain consequential amendments made by the reforms extend to Scotland. The purpose of these amendments is to ensure that we have the legal power to make all those consequential amendments that are necessary to give effect to the reforms being made in England and Wales. The amendments make no substantive changes to bankruptcy law in Scotland, which is a devolved matter. I therefore beg to move.

Lord Stevenson of Balmacara: My Lords, we have read the amendments and recognised the points. Rather surprisingly, given the volume of correspondence that we received on everything else in the Bill, we received no comments from anyone on this matter and therefore have to rely entirely on our own judgments. In this case, we are happy for the amendments to go forward.

Amendment 58HA agreed.

Amendment 59 had been withdrawn from the Marshalled List.

Amendments 59A and 59B

Moved by Viscount Younger of Leckie

59A: Clause 78, page 75, line 40, after “63” insert “(1) and (2)”

59B: Clause 78, page 75, line 41, after “19” insert “(and section 63(3) so far as it relates to those paragraphs)”

Amendments 59A and 59B agreed.

Amendments 60 and 60A had been withdrawn from the Marshalled List.

Clause 78, as amended, agreed.

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Clause 79 : Commencement

Amendment 60AA

Moved by Viscount Younger of Leckie

60AA: Clause 79, page 76, line 4, leave out “Sections 75 to 80” and insert “The following provisions”

Viscount Younger of Leckie: My Lords, given that this is the last group of amendments in our Committee discussions, I would like to place on record my thanks to our Deputy Chairmen and the clerks who have masterfully steered our way through all the amendments; to the Bill teams involved; to the Hansard writers who have admirably recorded our discussions and, indeed, were obliged to stay somewhat later than the extended time allotted last week; and to the Doorkeepers for their unstinting assistance.

We have given the Bill careful and detailed scrutiny and I pay tribute to noble Lords opposite as well as my noble friends who have participated in our debates. Although there have been areas on which we have not wholly agreed, which we will discuss further on Report, as one would expect from this House, they have brought a depth of knowledge and analysis to the wide range of issues covered by the Bill. I would also like to thank my noble friend Lady Stowell for the part she has played and my noble friend Lord Popat and many other noble friends who have assisted and supported me and my officials.

The Government’s amendments to Clause 79 have two effects. The first is to commence all powers to make subordinate legislation by statutory instrument on Royal Assent. This is to assist with the orderly commencement of the Bill’s provisions. I should make it clear that these amendments should not be seen as suggesting that all the powers in the Bill will be exercised straight after Royal Assent, or indeed at all. Some are reserve powers which will be needed only if certain circumstances apply—for example, Clause 45 on the powers of sector regulators. Amendment 60AD adds further provisions to the list in Clause 79(2) which are to come into force automatically two months after Royal Assent without the need for a commencement order. I beg to move Amendment 60AA.

Lord Whitty: My Lords, it is probably totally inappropriate for me—as I am probably the person who has been here least in recent days—but I would like to join the Minister in thanking the clerks, the support staff and everybody who has participated on all sides during these debates. I also thank the various Chairs, including our current Chair. I extend that to the Minister and his colleagues and to the noble Lord, Lord Marland, who, many moons ago, started us out on this course.

Lest the Minister think he is going to get away after that, I have a couple of questions on this virtually final clause. As he says, the powers do not necessarily come in at the first date that is stipulated here in terms of implementation, but the Secretary of State will be able to implement them. In Amendment 60AB, he has already referred to proposed new paragraph (b), which relates to concurrent powers in Clause 45. The Minister

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may recall that during the debate on this there was considerable concern expressed about how the balance between the sector regulator and the new CMA would work. My understanding is that there will be different times in practice when each of the concurrent powers cease or are otherwise redefined; does that mean that, as it stands, Clause 45 would come in all at once on whatever date the Secretary of State determined after the first date? In fact, there may be a different date for Ofcom and the CMA or Ofgem and the CMA or the other sector regulators. It would be heavy work for the Government if they were all to come in at the same time, because there are different considerations in each of the sectors and there will be some inquiries which are still ongoing and some which need to be completed. In any case, we will probably have to return to the substantive issue on Report to get further clarification—if not to move further amendments—but it would seem that if all of Clause 45 were brought in applying to all sectors at the same time, it would be a problem.

My second point is about proposed new paragraph (f) in Amendment 60AB. This effectively says that anything that does not happen to be listed here can nevertheless come into play on the first day after Royal Assent. It seems, since Her Majesty will be signing them off, that this is getting fairly close to his late Majesty, King Henry VIII, in that if you do not specify the date in which various sections come into operation, then bringing any Section forward to an immediate date—even though it is not specified in this commencement clause—could seriously disturb the arrangements of the particular bodies that apply. For example, if there is a commencement of a particular power to either commence or cease, people need to know that in advance. Therefore, it is important that the Bill specifies that rather than have a catch-all ability for the Secretary of State, or some future Secretary of State, to bring any clause into play on the first day. If the noble Viscount tells me that this is normal, of course I shall withdraw it, but it is not something that I see in many pieces of legislation. Perhaps he could clarify the position.

5.30 pm

Viscount Younger of Leckie: I thank the noble Lord, Lord Whitty, in the sunset of this Bill, for bringing up these issues, which I regard as quite technical in terms of the timing. I appreciate what he has asked and it is obviously my business to get back to him with some answers. It may help him to know that it is the powers only that will be commenced on Royal Assent; the substantive provision will come in separately later. It might help to facilitate the commencement of the

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Bill. That is the reason for it. It should reduce the number of commencement orders and the commencement dates. It is important for me to re-emphasise exactly why we are bringing in this issue. However, I might not have addressed his concerns entirely but I would be more than happy to take up this matter later and give him a proper response in writing, with a copy placed in the Library.

Amendment 60AA agreed.

Amendments 60AB to 60AF

Moved by Viscount Younger of Leckie

60AB: Clause 79, page 76, line 4, at end insert “—

(a) section 19;

(b) section (Power to remove concurrent competition functions of sectoral regulators);

(c) section 51;

(d) sections 66 to 69 and Schedule 21;

(e) sections 74 to 80;

(f) any other provision so far as is necessary for enabling the exercise on or after the day on which this Act is passed of any power (arising under or by virtue of that provision) to make provision by regulations or order made by statutory instrument.”

60AC: Clause 79, page 76, line 5, after “provisions” insert “(so far as not already in force by virtue of subsection (1)(f))”

60AD: Clause 79, page 76, line 6, at end insert—

“( ) Part 1;

( ) sections 11, 13, 15, 16 and 17;”

60AE: Clause 79, page 76, line 9, leave out paragraph (c)

60AF: Clause 79, page 76, line 13, leave out “The remaining provisions” and insert “Except as provided by subsections (1) and (2), the provisions”

Amendments 60AB to 60AF agreed.

Clause 79, as amended, agreed.

Clause 80 agreed.

Amendment 60B

Moved by Viscount Younger of Leckie

60B: In the Title, line 7, after “directors;” insert “to make provision about the supply of customer data;”

Amendment 60B agreed.

Bill reported with amendments.

Committee adjourned at 5.32 pm.