Clause 28 - Functions of the CMA under this Part: general provisions

Part of United Kingdom Internal Market Bill – in the House of Commons at 3:30 pm on 15th September 2020.

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Photo of Alexander Stafford Alexander Stafford Conservative, Rother Valley 3:30 pm, 15th September 2020

I have taken a huge amount of interventions already, so I will make some progress.

This body, fundamentally, is at last going to look after Britain and British interests, and that to me, is vitally important. Moving on to the main clauses of the Bill, clause 28 as it stands will allow the OIM to monitor the internal market, which is another example of how we have taken back control of Britain’s future. We are looking after our own markets at last. Clause 29 states that the CMA will be able to conduct research of its own volition in addition to research requested by political parties, the devolved Administrations and legislatures and, of course, the UK Government. It will regulate cross-border competition, cross-border investments and the levels of trade between the different parts of the UK. This will be great for the levelling-up agenda, because the CMA will look at all aspects across the borders.

Clause 30 will make the system more transparent. The CMA will have to share all reports commissioned with all national authorities—including the Scottish Parliament—after 15 days, regardless of who requests the report, in order to be compliant. All parties should welcome this level of transparency and openness in politics. In other words, if one body asks for it, everyone gets to see it. There is no cloak and dagger; everyone is involved and treated equally. Clause 32 states that the CMA will be able to report on the economic impacts of the Bills passed into law. It is fantastic to have objective-free reporting, without party-political goggles or restraints. This will allow us to have an objective-free, open way of looking at things.

Clause 34 will allow the CMA, at its own discretion, to exclude particular categories of information from its reports, where they are judged to be significantly harmful to UK business interests. That puts our economy first, which is exactly what the body ought to do. It is not a political body, and it is not a Parliament making political points. It is trying to say, “We are here for business”, because this is a business Bill to promote British business and our British trade. It is not about independence. Is not about a so-called power grab. It is about promoting trade, and nothing more. It is about making things better for everyone—for the people of Scotland, Wales, Northern Ireland and England.

Clause 36 grants the CMA information-gathering powers, and states that no information can be requested if it cannot be compelled to be given in the course of civil judicial proceedings before a court. This gives a level of protection against invasive Governments of all colours, whether in England, Scotland, Wales or Northern Ireland, because this party backs business. Despite what the SNP is telling us about a so-called unelected cabal of people being in control, that is simply not the case. This body is about business. We have had many interventions in the debate, but now that I am talking about the clauses and about business, how many times have SNP Members intervened to talk about the nub of the Bill rather than going on about independence? The Bill is not a power grab. It is about business and the economy.

Clause 47 sets out conditions on non-compliance. The CMA will be able to decide whether information requests have been supplied to a satisfactory level, and non-compliance will be punishable with a financial penalty. Dispute resolution will ultimately be a matter for the courts, and the Government will be kept out of it. Once more, we are talking the language of business. We are not doing this in a party political way; we are doing it in a business way. As anyone who has worked in a business or run a business will know, we do not want politicians sticking their noses in business. We actually want a fair way to get through things.