Clause 25 - Interim orders

Part of National Security and Investment Bill – in a Public Bill Committee at 11:00 am on 8th December 2020.

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Photo of Chi Onwurah Chi Onwurah Shadow Minister (Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy), Shadow Minister (Digital, Culture, Media and Sport) 11:00 am, 8th December 2020

Let me start my thanking the Minister for setting out the purpose and details of clauses 25 to 28, which set out the remedies and the process of the timelines that we discussed in relation to clause 23. As he has suggested, and as the Opposition recognise, many of our amendments and arguments have been focused on trying to ensure that the process of assessment, interim orders and final orders works not just as effectively as possible, but as clearly as possible. It should be as clear as possible to the many businesses that will come under the remit of the Bill, particularly the small and medium-sized enterprises that the Opposition seek to champion.

On the requirements for interim orders, which are set out in clause 25, the Minister is absolutely right to say that we have to have regard to the actions of hostile actors. Indeed, we will be looking for greater clarity on who those hostile actors might be, but we have to recognise that hostile actors might seek to circumvent the provisions of the Bill in order to make off with important intellectual property or to otherwise influence the companies’ assets that they are seeking to acquire. We therefore recognise the importance of interim orders, as set out in clause 25. As I have told the Minister, I am not clear about the maximum timeline that the interim orders can be in place. Regardless of that, it is clearly necessary for them to be put in place and to be defined. They need to be reviewed and rewritten, and other provisions in clause 25 set that out.

My understanding is that interim orders give way to final orders and the final notifications. Although we have some concerns about how those notifications are to be made, which we shall consider later, a final order, made as effectively and quickly as possible, is clearly important.

I am not sure that the Minister made it clear in clause 26(4):

“Before making a final order the Secretary of State must consider any representations made to the Secretary of State”.

This seems to me to be a very broad statement, yet here we see—as I am sure my hon. Friend the Member for Southampton, Test will observe—that it does not say “may”, but “must”. I am not clear what that is seeking to address, as I would have thought that it was normal practice for the Secretary of State to consider representations made to them.

I wonder whether this is setting up the potential for a future judicial—or other—review, should any representation be made that was not considered to have been considered. Perhaps the Minister will write to me to give his view on that, or to set out what part of the process that statement is trying to address or give accountability on.