1 Lord Bishop of Manchester debates involving the Department for Science, Innovation & Technology

Lord Kamall Portrait Lord Kamall (Con)
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My Lords, I will speak to Amendments 36, 38, 39, 40 and 41. I have been trying to understand the reason for the current government position. One issue that I have thought about, and which I have written about in the past, is the notion of unintended consequences. Often a well-intended government intervention can make things worse. Many of you will remember the example of the Government of the 1990s introducing the dash to diesel, as it was supposed to be better for the environment—and, in response, we found that actually it made things worse. That is not to criticise the Government of the day, as it was well-intentioned, and many people supported the reduction of greenhouse gases.

One thing that I have thought about with regard to better law-making is how we ensure that there are safeguards in place for when there are negative unintended consequences. For that reason, I have some sympathy for considering whether the unintended consequence of a CMA decision could make things worse for consumers. However, like many noble Lords I am concerned that this is a massive loophole for large tech companies to continue to engage in anti-competitive behaviour or, as other noble Lords have said, slow down the process.

Having looked at the amendments and the Government’s position, I want to ask my noble friend the Minister a direct question. Could he explain what the Government mean by countervailing benefits and give some real examples, or hypothetical examples, of where consumers may be harmed by a pro-competitive intervention by the CMA? If that response convinces noble Lords, perhaps the Government could consider bringing forward an amendment based on Amendment 41 from the noble Lord, Lord Clement-Jones. I look forward to my noble friend the Minister’s response.

Lord Bishop of Manchester Portrait The Lord Bishop of Manchester
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My Lords, I shall be extremely brief. When we debate in Grand Committee, it always strikes me that we do so in the Moses Room —Moses, the great giver of the law. However, the biblical characters that I am more thinking of today would be David fighting Goliath, because it seems to be that a lot of the conversation around this group of amendments is about how we create a proper balance between the large platforms and small entrepreneurial providers. My mother was a small businesswoman; she ran two record shops in the Greater Manchester area. We could have been put out of business very easily if somebody had been able to delay some anti-competitive business action against us. We also have the judgment of Solomon here; he was quick in his judgment—there were no lengthy processes that took for ever and a day. I tend to the view that the Bill, as it entered the House of Commons, was probably at about the sweet spot, but let us get this right so that Davids have a chance amid the Goliaths. And yes, I apologise for not declaring that interest—I am called David.