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Arrangement of Business

Volume 738: debated on Monday 2 July 2012


Moved by

My Lords, in view of the fact that the second Statement has not yet started in the other place, I am afraid that I am going to have to beg to move that the House do now adjourn during pleasure, I suggest for 10 minutes.

My Lords, in the 20 minutes that we have had for this European Council Statement, not a single female Member of this House apart from the noble Baroness, Lady Royall, was able to subject the Government to scrutiny. I therefore wonder whether the House will consent to hear me put a question to the noble Lord the Leader on the European Council. My question is to do with the banking union.

My Lords, the point is that the debate that we are now on is about whether or not the House should adjourn during pleasure for 10 minutes. I suspect that it is probably my fault that we are in this position. I said that the first Statement should not start before 4 pm; it started pretty much on the dot of 4 pm, and perhaps if we had delayed it for another 10 minutes we would have been able to continue without a gap at all. I am in a bit of a quandary because I would have hoped that the Statement in the Commons from the Chancellor of the Exchequer would have already begun.

Perhaps I could offer a potential solution to this. If, on the debate on whether the House should now adjourn during pleasure, the noble Baroness were allowed to make the point that she had not been able to put certain questions to the Leader of the House on the previous Statement and to explain to the House what those questions would have been, and perhaps the feminist dimension to them, and then the noble Lord the Leader were to answer that, we might even find ourselves in a happier position regarding the second Statement.

That is an astonishingly good idea. Although we are still on the Question of whether or not the House should rise during pleasure for 10 minutes, perhaps my noble friend Lady Falkner could reconsider what she was going to say.

My Lords, I am extremely grateful to the House and to the noble Baroness, Lady Hayman, for coming up with that ingenious solution. My question would have been to do with the banking union and the lack of clarity about the relationship between the enhanced powers of the ECB, as it will be the banking regulator and supervisor, and the Bank of England, because significant issues of UK banking priorities would be affected by banking union. I wonder if the noble Lord might have been able to tell the House, had he had the opportunity, whether Section II of the report on EMU, which says that,

“Member States will be closely associated … and regularly consulted”,

would also apply not to the 17 countries that are not in the eurozone or the eight that are applying to be in the eurozone, but to those that are neither applicants nor in the eurozone in terms of the relationship between the banking authorities.

My Lords, if that is the question that my noble friend would have asked, perhaps I can crave the indulgence of the House in giving her the answer that I would have given if she had been within the 20 minutes for Back-Bench time. I am not entirely sure whether it makes a difference that we have not had a female Member of the House asking a question; I think that it is a wonderful thing that my noble friend has asked a question, but I would hate to be in a position where we reserved a certain amount of questions for either male or female Members. For my part, I think that the female Members of this House play a most valuable role, and in some debates rather a bigger role than some of the male Members.

My noble friend’s question was to do with the common regulatory regime for EU banks; in other words, what the relationship will be between the ECB in its new role in relation to regulators, supervisors and banks in non-eurozone countries. The euro countries have agreed to establish a single supervisory regime involving the ECB. Throughout this whole process, we have been entirely clear that the UK will not participate in that. The details need to be worked out over the coming months but we are very clear that any supervisor must not undermine the single market or UK financial services. The European Council has agreed that any proposals must include,

“concrete proposals on preserving the unity and integrity of the Single Market in financial services”.

I see that the Chief Whip has arrived on the Front Bench. We have an unusual convention that we repeat Statements and do not pre-empt them. I was rather hoping that the Prime Minister would have finished his Statement by now and that the Chancellor of the Exchequer would be on his feet. I wonder if it would be appropriate, even though we are still discussing this Motion as to whether or not we should adjourn for pleasure for 10 minutes—

I will try, as usual, to be helpful by saying a few words on this Motion about adjourning for pleasure. I do not think that we should. At least the Leader of the House was candid enough to confess that this timetabling was his mistake, but it is not the first mistake he has made in relation to the business of the House. In fact, in this instance, he is a serial offender. He ought to be very grateful to the noble Lords, Lord Hamilton and Lord Myners, to myself and others for insisting—and putting it to a Division, which was won, with the support of the Opposition—that the Committee stage of the Financial Services Bill be held on the Floor of the House. Given the events of the last few days, it would have been outrageous if it had been taking place in the Moses Room, hidden from public attention. Now, we can be sure that all of it, including the amendments, will be taken here on the Floor of the House.

When we have that debate, I hope that we will have, for once, the presence of the Minister of State at the Department of Trade and Industry, the noble Lord, Lord Green, who is never here, never answers Questions, never participates in debates and leaves it all to the poor noble Lord, Lord Sassoon, who does a wonderful job under the circumstances. It would be particularly helpful to have the noble Lord, Lord Green, here, because on 28 November 2005, it was announced that he was to become group executive chairman of HSBC. He has more knowledge from the time when all of this took place. He was chairman of one of the biggest banks and so can give us some inside information, if he is allowed to. I hope the Leader of the House will confirm—

I wish to be helpful to the House. It is also worth pointing out that the Minister, the noble Lord, Lord Green of Hurstpierpoint, was chairman of the British Bankers’ Association when these manipulations of the BBA’s LIBOR rate were taking place. It is reported that the executive of the BBA was aware that manipulation was taking place but took no action. How can this allow the noble Lord, Lord Green of Hurstpierpoint, to continue to be a credible adviser to the Chancellor of the Exchequer on banking, a role that he seems to have taken over from the poor noble Lord, Lord Sassoon, for whom we all have a great affection?

My Lords, I wish to apologise. I am grateful to my noble friend Lord Foulkes for bringing these issues to the attention of the House. We have had a very worthwhile discussion but I wish to place on record my thanks to the government Chief Whip. As I understand it, it was at the Opposition’s request that the Statement was promptly at 4 pm, for the convenience of some Members of my Benches and of the whole House. I do not wish to cast aspersions on the Leader of the House when, in fact, I should be the one taking the blame.

I am very grateful for that. I have very broad shoulders on these things, but it demonstrates that I made yet another mistake in giving way to the noble Lord, Lord Foulkes.

As for the noble Lord, Lord Myners, let everybody just remember what his role was in all this as a very senior Minister in the Treasury in the previous Government.

My Lords, in view of the fact that the Chancellor of the Exchequer has now started, I beg leave to withdraw my Motion.

Motion withdrawn.