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Budget Responsibility and National Audit Bill [HL]

Volume 725: debated on Monday 7 February 2011

Third Reading

My Lords, I have it in command from Her Majesty the Queen to acquaint the House that Her Majesty, having been informed of the purport of the Budget Responsibility and National Audit Bill, has consented to place her prerogative, so far as it is affected by the Bill, at the disposal of Parliament for the purposes of the Bill.

A privilege amendment was made.


Moved by

My Lords, the passage of the Bill through your Lordships’ House has been an excellent example of the importance of this House as a scrutinising and revising House. On behalf of these Benches, I thank the Treasury Bill team; Miss Jessica Levy from my office, who managed most of the relationship with the Bill team; and the Ministers, notably the noble Lord, Lord Sassoon, for the way in which they have approached the discussions and constructive negotiations on the content of the Bill.

The Office for Budget Responsibility established by the Bill is a peculiar institution. It is both outside government and of government. We need to ensure that legislation provides a framework for its independent operation as far as possible. That is what, working together, we have managed to do. We have clarified the role of non-executives, we have removed the statements in the Bill that seemed to qualify independence, we have enabled the OBR to consider issues of national risk, and we have enabled a process of external review of operations.

A number of factors remain. We on this side of the House are not entirely content with the budgetary provision for the OBR, or with the role of the charter as a qualifying agent that qualifies the OBR’S independence and instructs it.

May I ask the Leader of the House whether it is normal to make a speech like this on the Question whether the Bill do now pass?

It is unusual, but it is in order. I think that the noble Lord, Lord Eatwell, is about to wrap up his remarks, but he was being constructive and helpful.

I am indeed. It is appropriate to thank people, when a Bill has gone through in this co-operative manner, for what has been achieved.

I know that the Government think that this side of the House has taken a somewhat belt-and-braces approach to the independence of the OBR; I am sure that Sir Humphrey, or perhaps Sir Nicholas, does. However, it can do no harm to the OBR’s reputation to have a belt in place when the braces fail.

It is the Government’s responsibility now to ensure that this important experiment in economic governance is a success. We on this side wish Mr Chote and his team well.

My Lords, my words are very much in the same direction as my noble friend’s. This has been a superb example of the House working well. We had long and detailed discussions in Committee. The Minister listened attentively and reserved his position, but came back with constructive amendments, and at all stages he kept fully informed everyone who is interested in the Bill by writing to us and keeping us up to date. It is a better Bill as a consequence of the House working effectively in the way that it did.

My Lords, I thank the noble Lords, Lord Eatwell and Lord Myners, for those remarks. I add my thanks to the Bill team, who did a cracking job, and to the Opposition for the constructive spirit in which we saw the Bill through.

Bill passed and sent to the Commons.