Domestic Gas and Electricity (Tariff Cap) Bill - Report

Part of the debate – in the House of Lords at 4:34 pm on 27th June 2018.

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Photo of Lord Mackay of Clashfern Lord Mackay of Clashfern Conservative 4:34 pm, 27th June 2018

My Lords, we considered this amendment in Committee. My noble friend Lord Hunt of Wirral will be here in a moment, I think, but the noble Lord, Lord Carlile of Berriew, has let me know that he cannot be here because he is appearing in court in Birmingham. He thinks it is probably his last appearance in court, so it is an occasion for congratulating him on a long life of very great success in the courts.

I move this amendment, which is, as I say, the same as was moved at the previous stage. I want, first, to deal with a technical matter that my noble friend raised when he said that we needed 11 or so new clauses in the Bill. My understanding is that the cap will apply to electricity and gas and therefore that it is right that the electricity appeal provisions and gas appeal provisions are referred to and incorporated in relation to this matter in the Bill and that the appropriate procedures will apply in relation to that.

Your Lordships will recall the argument that I presented along with my colleagues last time on the relative suitability of the two possibilities for appeal against the decision of the authority to put the cap at a certain level. We were very much of the view that the technical nature of the appeal was such that it would be much better as an appeal to the CMA rather than a judicial review. One reason for that was that we were able in the amendment to control the form and timing of that appeal in a way that you cannot do for judicial review, at least not very easily—and some would say not at all. At any rate, it is much easier to do it through the CMA.

We dealt with all the main objections that the Government had to the CMA appeals. However, my noble friend undertook to write to the CMA to see what it thought about this. I am not absolutely clear to what extent the CMA considered our amendment in detail, but it returned a pretty negative answer to the question of whether it would be appropriate for it. It thought that, on the whole, judicial review was more appropriate. The motivation is not entirely clear to me; the letter is not one of the most lucid that I have ever read, but the decision that the CMA has taken is lucid enough: it does not want anything to do with this particular process, if at all possible.

In that situation, my colleagues and I had a meeting with the Minister—my noble friend Lord Henley—and the Minister in charge of this Bill in the House of Commons. We had a very full meeting and they have persuaded me that the chances of this amendment being accepted by the House of Commons are such that we should not press it here, because it would just be a waste of time to press it here if we were sure that it would come back. All that would happen is that we waste time and money. We have therefore decided together that we will not press this amendment to a Division.

However, we emphasise that, although we have departed from our suggestion for a CMA appeal, there is still the possibility of judicial review, which is particularly important with regard to the procedures that are used. It is therefore very important that the authority, in conducting the consultation and the decision-making with regard to its task, does so in a procedure which properly takes account of the various matters that are put to it. Therefore, although we are sorry that the CMA appeal is not to go ahead, we believe that an effective appeal on matters that are important exists in the shape of judicial review. I beg to move the amendment and, as I say, I will withdraw it in due course.

Amendment 4 (to Amendment 3) not moved.