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

Part of United Kingdom Internal Market Bill – in the House of Commons at 5:30 pm on 15th September 2020.

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Photo of Paul Scully Paul Scully Parliamentary Under-Secretary (Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy), Minister of State (London) 5:30 pm, 15th September 2020

It is a pleasure to serve under your chairmanship, Mr Evans. I would like to thank all Members who have spoken today. Before I proceed to discuss part 4 in some detail and the amendments that have been tabled, I want to put the Bill into context, so that we can see where it sits. I would particularly like to thank my hon. Friends the Members for Stone (Sir William Cash), for Rother Valley (Alexander Stafford), for Hertford and Stortford (Julie Marson) and for Beaconsfield (Joy Morrissey) for their support of the Bill. This is an economic Bill to ensure that UK companies can trade unhindered in every part of the UK, and their focus on the core issue of ensuring that free trade must be commended.

The United Kingdom’s internal market has been the bedrock of our shared prosperity for centuries. It has enabled businesses and individuals to thrive and has been the source of unhindered and open trade across the country. It has helped to demonstrate that, as a Union, our country is greater than the sum of its parts. The economies of our four nations within one United Kingdom are forged as one. Around 60% of Scottish and Welsh exports are to the rest of the UK, which is around three times as much as the exports to the rest of the EU. About 50% of Northern Ireland’s sales are to Great Britain. In some local authorities in Wales, over a quarter of workers commute across the border. So when we leave the transition period at the end of this year, and the laws made in Europe can now be made across the UK, hundreds of powers will flow from the EU to the devolved nations and the UK Government in an unprecedented transfer of powers. It is really important to remember that we are devolving powers down to those devolved nations.

The Bill will not limit the devolved Administrations from innovating, as some Members have suggested. If an Administration wanted to introduce minimum alcohol pricing laws in the future, as was mentioned earlier, our proposals in the Bill would have no effect on them as long as the rules did not have a discriminatory effect on goods from other parts of the UK. Nor would our proposals do anything to prevent any Administration from introducing rules and regulations on how and where products could be used, including bans on smoking in public places. As these powers return to the devolved Administrations and as we recover from covid, we must ensure that our economy is stronger than ever. That is why the Government have brought forward this legislation to guarantee the continued functioning of our internal market and to ensure that trade remains unhindered in the UK.

Our manifesto committed us to maintaining and strengthening the integrity and smooth operation of our internal market, and eight weeks ago, my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy presented to Parliament a White Paper that set out plans to preserve our internal market after the transition period. Since then, we have spoken to hundreds of businesses and business representative organisations across the UK to gather views and feedback on our proposals. Overwhelmingly, businesses supported our approach. For example, the British Chambers of Commerce stressed that a fragmented system would create additional costs, bureaucracy and supply chain challenges that could disrupt operations for firms across the UK. As these proposals progress, business communities will want practical considerations, not politics, at the heart of the debates on shaping solutions. I want to thank those businesses, along with colleagues across the devolved Administrations, for their engagement on the White Paper.

Turning now to the independent body that will be created by the provisions in part 4, we consulted on how to ensure that an independent monitoring and advice function could uphold the internal market. In response, to oversee the functioning of the internal market, the Bill sets up the Office for the Internal Market within the Competition and Markets Authority. In some of the contributions today, Members have talked about who will serve in the Office for the Internal Market. I must remind people that the Competition and Markets Authority sits aside from Government and the directors of its board can be seen on its website. It is open to everyone to see their expertise in their fields. These are not people who are passed on through grace and favour; these are technical roles and it is really important that we have the greatest expertise in that body.