My Lords, I shall speak to Amendment 184. In Committee, we debated the role of the OFT in merger policy and looking into mergers between foundation trusts. I tabled an amendment because it seemed to me at the time that the Enterprise Act was a relatively blunt instrument for the OFT to use to look at those mergers, compared to the usual way that it would look at the competitive effect or impact on competition of such a merger. The response of the noble Earl, Lord Howe, was extremely helpful in guiding us through the relevant provisions of the Enterprise Act-in particular, pointing out that the OFT has a duty under the Enterprise Act to look at relevant customer benefits.
The issue is that "customer" is not normally how we describe patients in the NHS and the way that the NHS operates is rather different from considering whether Dixons taking over Comet, for instance, will impact on the customer or the consumer. There is a difference. It seemed to me that the best way to handle the matter would be specifically to provide for Monitor to be inserted into the process so that it would give specific advice to the OFT on those matters. Although the definition is "relevant customer benefits", its perspective would be on the impact on patients.
I appreciate the earlier amendments which the noble Earl has tabled, but this would add the extra dimension to Clause 77 which will enable the OFT and Monitor to have a really powerful role in the way that they oversee foundation trust mergers and, I think, settle some of the concerns which surround Clause 77 as drafted.