Enterprise Bill

Part of the debate – in the House of Lords at 5:30 pm on 15th October 2002.

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Photo of Baroness Oppenheim-Barnes Baroness Oppenheim-Barnes Conservative 5:30 pm, 15th October 2002

My Lords, I apologise in advance to the noble Lord, Lord Phillips, if I sound churlish about the amendment. When I first looked at the amendment, I said to myself, "Oh dear". When I looked at it again, I said, "I absolutely hate this amendment".

At one time I had responsibility for these matters. In order to demonstrate to your Lordships how prejudiced I was in this respect—and the noble Lord, Lord Borrie, will remember it well—I confess that I used to complain bitterly about the public interest criteria in Monopolies and Mergers Commission findings. I felt that it was not narrow enough; I wanted, purely and simply, public interest struck out and the consumer interest put in.

To become too diverse in this matter is to take away from the consumer interest. It is a pure interest and one which is already covered well in the Bill, as quoted by the noble Lord. Employment legislation deals with a great deal of what he has said and other legislation deals with other factors he has raised. In my experience, it is difficult enough to teach children in schools their simple rights and obligations as consumers. So many people have tried to do it and I challenge the noble Lord to go into schools and to question children—even those in the upper classes—about their rights and obligations as consumers. Even today, with all the work that has been done, few will have the slightest idea. That is due in part to the fact that we have had a great deal of confusing legislation, but the fact remains. I would be against any amendment which in these matters sought in any way to mitigate against the pure consumer interest and which would go further than the other issues named in the Bill.