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(1)The Secretary of State may at any time refer to the Commission any question relating to—
(a)the efficiency and costs of,
(b)the service provided by, or
(c)possible abuse of a monopoly situation by,
a person falling within subsection (3) below and specified in the reference, including any question whether, in relation to a matter falling within paragraph (a), (b) or (c) above, the person is pursuing a course of conduct which operates against the public interest.
(2)For the purposes of subsection (1)(c) above “monopoly situation” includes a monopoly situation which is limited to a part of the United Kingdom and, accordingly, for those purposes references to the United Kingdom in sections 6 and 7 of the M1Fair Trading Act 1973 shall be taken to include references to a part of the United Kingdom.
(3)The persons referred to in subsection (1) above are—
(a)any body corporate—
(i)which supplies goods or services by way of business,
(ii)the affairs of which are managed by its members, and
(iii)the members of which hold office as such by virtue of their appointment to that or another office by a Minister under any enactment; or
[F1(aa)any publicly owned railway company, within the meaning of the Railways Act 1993, which supplies network services or station services, within the meaning of Part I of that Act; or]
[F2(b)any person (not falling within paragraph (a) above) who provides in Northern Ireland a bus service within the meaning of section 14 of the Finance Act (Northern Ireland) 1966; or]
[F3(bb)any person who provides a railway passenger service in pursuance of an agreement entered into by London Regional Transport by virtue of [F4section 3(2) or (2A)(a)] of the [F5London Regional Transport Act 1984]; or]
[F6(c)the National Rivers Authority;]
(d)any board administering a scheme under the M2Agricultural Marketing Act 1958 [F9or the M3Agricultural Marketing Act (Northern Ireland) 1964][F10or the Agricultural Marketing (Northern Ireland) Order 1982]; or
(e)any body corporate with a statutory duty to promote and assist the maintenance and development of the efficient supply of any goods or services by a body falling within paragraphs (a) to (d) above; or
(4)The Secretary of State may by order exclude from subsection (3)(b) [F13or (bb)]above persons of such descriptions as may be specified in the order.
(5)No question concerning a person falling within subsection (3)(b) [F14or (bb)]above or a subsidiary of a body falling within [F15that subsection][F15either of those paragraphs]may be referred to the Commission under this section unless it relates to the carriage of passengers by the person or, as the case may be, the subsidiary.
(6)The Secretary of State may at any time by notice given to the Commission vary a reference under this section.
(7)On making a reference under this section or on varying such a reference under subsection (6) above the Secretary of State shall arrange for the reference or, as the case may be, the variation to be published in such manner as he considers most suitable for bringing it to the attention of persons who in his opinion would be affected by it or be likely to have an interest in it.
(8)On a reference under this section the Commission shall investigate and report on any question referred to them but shall exclude from their investigation and report consideration of—
(a)any question relating to the appropriateness of any financial obligations or guidance as to financial objectives (however expressed) imposed on or given to the person in question by or under any enactment, or otherwise by a Minister; F16. . .
F16(b). . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
[F17(9)The provisions mentioned in subsection (9A) are to apply in relation to a reference under this section as if—
(a)the functions of the Competition Commission under this section were functions under the Fair Trading Act 1973;
(b)the expression “merger reference” included a reference to the Commission under this section; and
(c)in paragraph 20(2)(a) of Schedule 7 to the Competition Act 1998, the reference to section 56 of the Fair Trading Act 1973 were a reference to section 12 below.
(9A)The provisions are—
(a)sections 70 (time limit for report on merger), 84 (public interest) and 85 (attendance of witnesses and production of documents) of the Fair Trading Act 1973; and
(b)Part II of Schedule 7 to the Competition Act 1998 (performance of the Competition Commission’s general functions).]
(10)A report of the Commission on a reference under this section shall be made to the Secretary of State and shall state, with reasons, the conclusions of the Commission with respect to any question referred to them and, where the Commission conclude that the person specified in the reference is pursuing a course of conduct which operates against the public interest, the report may include recommendations as to what action (if any) should be taken by the person for the purpose of remedying or preventing what the Commission consider are the adverse effects of that course of conduct.
(11)In this section “Minister” includes a Northern Ireland department and the head of such a department.
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