Penrose Review: UK Competition and Consumer Policy — [Clive Efford in the Chair]

Part of the debate – in Westminster Hall at 3:57 pm on 8th March 2022.

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Photo of John Penrose John Penrose Conservative, Weston-Super-Mare 3:57 pm, 8th March 2022

I thank all hon. Members for their contributions to the debate. One thing that has been very clear is that everyone present wants us to go further and faster. Everyone is saying, “Get on with it. Why are we not moving more quickly?” I think it is the only time in my life that I have ever been outflanked on a competition issue by the Labour Front Bencher—I am paraphrasing Seema Malhotra—who agreed with a great deal in the report but would like to go further in a few areas. Even without that, the clear message from everyone who spoke is that we agree with most of this and we want it to happen quickly, please, and to go further. Radicalism, not incrementalism, has been the universal message.

My hon. Friend the Minister can take away a reassuring message that, perhaps contrary to what he might have expected, there is cross-party agreement on more competition and more consumer rights, because from that comes a better and more trusting economy, and therefore a more productive and high-wage economy. At the start of the debate, I was not sure that I would get that, but it has been clear that that is where we are. However, we will need to push him a bit, because he did not mention a couple of things in his remarks, such as the stuff about whether we can further reform some of the economically regulated sectors, to normalise as much of them as we can to ensure that we do not need extra protections, because the existing ones will be enough. It looks as if he might not have got to a section of his speech, so it would be lovely if he commits to that when we get to the primary legislation.

The Minister was also clear that there will be primary legislation. I appreciate that he cannot give too many details in advance of the Queen’s Speech. However, it is clear that we cannot have the digital markets unit functioning effectively without primary legislation. Therefore, more progress will be needed. He was very clear about the shortcomings—as he sees them—of the one in, one out mechanism, or the one in, two out mechanism, for better regulation and about the fact that he has a mechanism, he thinks, for an alternative approach that will work, but when I asked him about how, we just got a repetition of what, rather than how, and there was no detail behind it. I am sure that he has that, and I hope that he will come around to describing it in detail in public shortly, because at the moment it is a bit of a mystery. Without it, we will have nothing that works.

That said, I again thank everyone for participating and the Minister for his comments. I think we are making progress. We have an awfully long way still to travel.

Question put and agreed to.

Resolved,

That this House
has considered UK competition and consumer policy in response to the Penrose review.