Debates between Baroness Noakes and Lord Caine during the 2019 Parliament

Tue 2nd Mar 2021
National Security and Investment Bill
Grand Committee

Committee stage & Committee stage & Lords Hansard

National Security and Investment Bill

Debate between Baroness Noakes and Lord Caine
Baroness Noakes Portrait Baroness Noakes (Con)
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My Lords, there are very wide powers in the Bill, and the amendments in this group are sensible and proportionate and go some way to reining in the extent of those powers. Other noble Lords have spoken extensively about Amendments 3 and 4, which I fully support. When I first focused on that language, I simply could not believe that the Government would have drafted the basis of calling in being the Secretary of State thinking that somebody else is thinking about something. My noble friend Lord Leigh of Hurley has set out the very dangerous consequences that could have for prospective transactions.

I am grateful to my noble friend Lord Lansley for explaining the link under the Enterprise Act to how the CMA operates. My view is that we should not simply rely on guidance to make an unsatisfactory formulation in legislation work better. I do not believe that “in … contemplation” is the right place to start, and guidance which will go some way to reversing what the ordinary understanding of “in … contemplation” means is not a satisfactory way forward.

I also agree with my noble friend Lord Lansley’s Amendment 8, given that the Bill, as has been pointed out, gives the Secretary of State time limits that start to run from when he becomes aware of transactions. It is just not reasonable for him ever to claim that he has no knowledge of something that is clearly in the public domain. I fully support that.

I also support Amendment 9, which the noble Lord, Lord Clement-Jones, spoke to a moment ago, because the Government need to consider the negative impact that the Bill is likely to give rise to. It is going to be very difficult to avoid the Bill having negative impacts on legitimate economic activity. It is absolutely right that the Secretary of State should actively consider that fact when he draws up his Clause 3 statement.

Like the noble Lord, Lord Clement-Jones, I believe that the volume of precautionary but unnecessary voluntary notifications is likely to be very significant, and it makes sense for the Secretary of State to ensure that his Clause 3 statement gives as many steers as possible to allow transactions to go ahead without having the Bill hanging over them. If the Secretary of State does not get this right it will result in the security and investment unit being overwhelmed by transactions, and that will do nobody any good at all.

The amendments in this group are soundly based and I look forward to hearing my noble friend the Minister’s response.

Lord Caine Portrait The Deputy Chairman of Committees (Lord Caine) (Con)
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I will try the noble Lord, Lord Vaizey again. Lord Vaizey of Didcot?