Digital Markets, Competition and Consumers Bill

Published date : 30 April, 2024
Scottish National party Members continue to support this Bill, and we support each of the Lords amendments. Notwithstanding the rather dizzying pinball rattle of interventions that went on between the Minister, the shadow Minister and the hon. Member for Weston-super-Mare (John Penrose), I will be a bit of a traditionalist stick-in-the-mud and stick to the wording in the amendments and the Bill, no matter what references might be made subsequently to the ghosts of debates past in Hansard.

On Lords amendment 9 and “proportionate” versus “appropriate”, it might seem to people outside this Chamber that we are dancing on a pinhead, but such distinctions matter. It is important that decisions of the Competition and Markets Authority should be allowed to stand wherever they deserve to, but that means not allowing unnecessary wriggle room to creep in for entities with deep pockets to challenge decisions not on the basis of principle, but on the grounds of what those entities consider proportionate. We consider that replacing the word “proportionate” is appropriate in this case, and we support the Lords amendment on that basis.

Lords amendment 13 reinserts the word “indispensable”. As the shadow Minister said, that term is well understood in competition law, but it also happens to be proportionate and appropriate in this case. It is entirely possible to envisage anti-competitive behaviour that can bring about consumer benefit either as a direct or indirect consequence, but we are clear that any benefits that arise should be such that they cannot be done without or forgone and that the test should be set accordingly.

With Lords amendments 26, 28, 31 and 32, we have believed throughout the Bill’s passage that the judicial review level is the appropriate appeals standard, rather than a full merits review. That is why we support those Lords amendments.

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