My Lords, with the leave of the House I will make a Business Statement about the Loans to Ireland Bill, which had its First Reading last night and was printed this morning.
On 22 November, my right honourable friend the Chancellor of the Exchequer announced that the United Kingdom, alongside the International Monetary Fund and the European Union—the eurozone and other member states—will participate in the international financial assistance package for Ireland. The United Kingdom has agreed in principle to make a bilateral loan to Ireland of approximately £3.25 billion, as it is in our national interest that the Irish economy and banking system are stable. The Government have therefore introduced a short Bill, designed to provide the necessary authority for HM Treasury to advance these funds to Ireland.
The intention is to fast-track the Bill. It is important for the Government, the IMF and the other lenders to be sure that the legislation will be passed so that they can assess the adequacy of the whole international support package. The IMF board is meeting to discuss the package today. Noble Lords will appreciate that insuring against further financial market instability is also imperative in the current environment. The Bill was introduced in another place on 9 December. In line with recommendations on fast-track legislation made by the Constitution Committee of this House, the Explanatory Notes to the Bill contain a full explanation of the case for fast-tracking and address the key questions set by the committee. In particular, the Explanatory Notes set out that the Bill contains a sunset provision, so that the authority to lend to Ireland and the power to increase the cap lapse after 8 December 2015—five years after the date of introduction in another place.
At the completion of stages in another place yesterday, the Bill was certified as a money Bill by Mr Speaker because its sole purpose is to authorise financial expenditure. The usual channels have agreed that the Second Reading of the Bill will be taken next Tuesday, 21 December, before Committee stage of the Public Bodies Bill resumes, and that remaining stages will be taken formally immediately after Second Reading, as is usual practice for money Bills. This will allow the Bill to receive Royal Assent before both Houses rise for the Christmas break. A list of speakers for Second Reading of the Bill next Tuesday is already open in the Government Whips’ Office. This approach has the agreement of the usual channels and I hope that the whole House will support it.