Report (and Third Reading)
Clause 1 : Council for Financial Stability
1: Clause 1, leave out Clause 1
My Lords, I shall speak also to Amendments 2 to 6. These amendments remove from the Bill the clauses relating to the Council for Financial Stability. As I set out in Committee yesterday, given the limited amount of time remaining in this Parliament, the Government have agreed with the Official Opposition through the usual channels and in the usual way which parts of the Bill should be enacted. The Council for Financial Stability was a casualty of this process, as were Clauses 8 and 18 to 25 on the FSA’s international remit and collective proceedings respectively, as I set out yesterday. In order to secure the passage of the remainder of the Bill, the Government have agreed to withdraw these provisions. That is why I have tabled amendments to remove all clauses relating to the CFS. As I said yesterday, the Government continue to believe that these provisions are necessary, sensible and desirable. However, in the interests of securing other important elements of the Bill, on which greater consensus exists, the Government have agreed to withdraw them.
Alongside removing Clauses 1 to 4, it is logical that the amendment tabled by the noble Lord, Lord Hamilton, that relates to the council should also be removed, and we have tabled an amendment that achieves that outcome. The Government have also tabled an amendment to remove Clause 6 in the new print of the Bill, which was introduced by the noble Baroness, Lady Noakes, and concerns financial assistance. Given that it largely duplicates a pre-existing requirement, and following agreement with the Official Opposition through the usual channels, I have also tabled an amendment to remove this clause. I urge noble Lords to support these amendments and beg to move.
My Lords, I shall weep no tears for the removal of Clauses 1, 3, 4 and 5. We spent most of our first two days in Committee talking about these clauses, and I think our views on the Council for Financial Stability were made clear during our discussions. However, I am less happy about losing Clauses 2 and 6. As the Minister said, Clause 2 came from an amendment tabled by my noble friend Lord Hamilton that was agreed to on a Division in your Lordships' House. It asks for a report on the structure of the UK financial system, which we believe is a topic that cannot be ducked. My noble friend’s amendment was phrased in terms of the Council for Financial Stability and therefore does not sit easily in the Bill, but the idea behind it remains valid. I say to my noble friend and all noble Lords who supported the amendment that if my party forms the next Government, that topic will not be ignored.
I was disappointed to hear that the Government wished to remove Clause 6 as part of the wash-up procedures. When I moved the amendment to insert that clause, the Minister, and the noble Lord, Lord Davies of Oldham, whom I see in his place, sat mute and the amendment was accepted into the Bill. The amendment addresses a real issue about informing Parliament in a timely way about financial assistance to the Bank of England. It is not met by any other provisions. My amendment was designed to ensure that the Government—any Government—could not keep Parliament in the dark again, as happened last year in relation to more than £60 billion of support for RBS and HBOS. I am saddened to see it go, but accept it as part of the wash-up arrangements.
Lord Oakeshott of Seagrove Bay: My Lords, obviously we accept the deletion of the clauses; we are just sorry that so much time has been wasted discussing them and that so much uncertainty has been created for the City of London and for our regulated structure by these half-baked Conservative proposals which have been floating around. Let us hope that they never see the light of day after the election.
Amendment 1 agreed.
Amendments 2 to 6
2: Clause 2, leave out Clause 2
3: Clause 3, leave out Clause 3
4: Clause 4, leave out Clause 4
5: Clause 5, leave out Clause 5
6: Clause 6, leave out Clause 6
Amendments 2 to 6 agreed.
Third Reading agreed without debate.
Bill passed and returned to the Commons with amendments.