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Tellers for the Ayes :
Mr. Roger King and
Mr. Roger Knapman.
Abbott, Ms Diane
Banks, Tony (Newham NW)
Barnes, Harry (Derbyshire NE)
Bennett, A. F. (D'nt'n & R'dish)
Davis, Terry (B'ham Hodge H'l)
Dunwoody, Hon Mrs Gwyneth
Ewing, Harry (Falkirk E)
Griffiths, Win (Bridgend)
Harman, Ms Harriet
Hoey, Ms Kate (Vauxhall)
Home Robertson, John
Hughes, John (Coventry NE)
McKay, Allen (Barnsley West)
Mahon, Mrs Alice
Pike, Peter L.
Powell, Ray (Ogmore)
Quin, Ms Joyce
Shore, Rt Hon Peter
Smith, J. P. (Vale of Glam)
Wareing, Robert N.
Welsh, Andrew (Angus E)
Wise, Mrs Audrey
Tellers for the Noes :
Mr. Michael Welsh and
Mr. Martin Redmond.
Column 1229Question accordingly agreed to.
Lords amendments considered.
Motion made, and Question proposed, That this House doth agree with the Lords in the said amendments.-- [The Second Deputy Chairman of Ways and Means.]
Mr. Deputy Speaker : In the light of the foregoing points of order, it might be sensible if the House were to discuss the amendments collectively ; if hon. Members wish to have separate Divisions on all or some of the amendments, perhaps they would indicate that to the Chair and sympathetic consideration will be given to any such request.
Mr. Andrew F. Bennett : On a point of order, Mr. Deputy Speaker. Will you explain what procedures the House is adopting? A private Bill is normally steered through the House by an hon. Member, who gives reasons for the amendments. The amendments were moved by the Second Deputy Chairman without any explanation. Will an hon. Member be called to put forward the proposals on behalf of the promoters of the Bill?
Mr. Deputy Speaker : It is open to any hon. Member in charge of a private Bill, should he so wish in the circumstances before the House, to volunteer an explanation of the Lords amendments. The House must bear in mind that any hon. Member is entitled to speak only once, other than with the express consent of the House, on any Lords amendment. Therefore, an hon. Member in charge of a Bill may prefer to respond to points made rather than to volunteer a statement at the outset. The Chair will recognise any hon. Member wishing to respond to points raised in the debate. I ask the House to bear in mind that even an hon. Member in charge of a Bill is allowed to speak only once on a Lords amendment.
Mr. Redmond : On a point of order, Mr. Deputy Speaker. It is early in the evening, but later I may be asked to act as a Teller. What would be the procedure if there were a scuffle in the exit of the lobby? Would I have to leave, protect myself or seek your guidance?
Mr. Cryer : On a point of order, Mr. Deputy Speaker. There will be a short debate on the amendments. Is an hon. Member present on behalf of the promoters to respond to comments made in the debate? If so, will he be prepared to do so?
Mr. Michael Welsh : I should like to speak to a number of the amendments. The first amendment is to clause 4, page 3, line 12. Its purpose is to leave out "having regard to" and to insert "by reason of". I cannot see the reason for the amendment.
Parliamentary agents cost much money. It is their duty to present correct Bills on behalf of the organisations which pay them much money for their work. I cannot foresee any reason for the amendment, unless there is an ulterior motive. If there is, I should like to know. If it is better English, we should like to know ; if it is better grammar, we should like to know ; and if it is better parliamentary wording, we should like to know. I am sure
Column 1230that the people who are financing the Bill would like to know why they must again pay parliamentary agents. I do not want to press that to a vote.
Mr. Andrew F. Bennett : Does my hon. Friend agree that there are several undercurrents to the debate, one of which is how private business has been conducted in the House? Is it appropriate for hon. Members to have to spend much time on Second Reading and further time in Committee and on Report when the Bill was not presented in its correct form? Is there not a strong argument for not proceeding with these private Bills in this way? A company such as a bank--
Mr. Deputy Speaker (Sir Paul Dean) : Order. I must remind the House- -the hon. Member for Doncaster, North (Mr. Welsh) has the Floor--that we are considering Lords amendments that deal with comparatively narrow issues. The debate must be restricted to that.
Mr. Deputy Speaker : Order. It was not a point of order but an intervention. I have explained that the hon. Gentleman's intervention was out of order. I am sure that the hon. Member for Doncaster, North will not be tempted down that road. I call the hon. Member for Doncaster, North.
Mr. Deputy Speaker : Order. It was not a point of order. The hon. Member for Denton and Reddish (Mr. Bennett) intervened, but I explained to the hon. Member for Doncaster, North that the points that he made would not be relevant in the debate.
The hon. Member for Honiton (Sir P. Emery) is well versed in these matters, so I am sure that he will give a good and lengthy reply to the debate and explain the reason for the Lords amendments. I should like to speak to the amendment to clause 4, page 3, line 14. This amendment is serious, especially in the light of certain things that happened in the City today. The amendment aims to insert the words
"in the opinion of the directors of the Bank".
Without the amendment, the Bill reads,
"in pursuance of a requirement made under subsection (2) above should be later than the appointed day".
"in the opinion of the directors of the Bank"
in the Bill? It is not necessary, as today's events show.
Mr. Cryer : Does not that amendment and the amendment to leave out "having regard to" and insert "by reason of" mean that the directors can set aside the law of any country or territory outside the United Kingdom with respect to vesting property? Would my hon. Friend care to reflect on today's circumstances and the extra powers that the amendments appear to confer on the directors by setting aside the law?
Mr. Welsh : I thank my hon. Friend for bringing that matter to my notice. We are told that the amendments are narrow, but sometimes they can be dangerous. I like to think that, in discussing such a Bill, we aim to protect everyone, especially those who invest. We are talking about pension funds and so on and I cannot understand how these measures can protect them in any way. I am not saying anything about the activities of the directors. That matter is sub judice and has nothing to do with me. However, everything is not right with the bank at present.
The Chairman of Ways and Means said that he would consider Members' wishes on any important issues on which heads should be counted.
Mr. Skinner : The first amendment is very wide. It would leave out "having regard to" the law of any country and insert "by reason of". Insertion of "by reason of" will mean that the law is binding. For example, a person who has money invested in the Cayman Islands, the Isle of Man or some other offshore outfit has to take account of the binding law. Suppose that that person had made enough money and shared it with Ken Dodd, or someone else, and decided to put some money in Poland because some idiot had said, "Poland is a decent place. It is changing." Suppose the business were subsidised to the hilt and someone said, "Put some of the NatWest money in Poland". I can imagine some Conservative Members saying, "Hold on. Can we be sure that our money will be sound with Jaruzelski and Lech Walesa and the Pope?" That person would have to say, "Just a minute. This is binding." Originally, it was a matter of "having regard to", so the directors could say that they were only "having regard to" the law of any dodgy country and its investments. If the amendment is carried and "by reason of" is inserted, they will be tied hand and foot. As has been said, this is a narrow amendment. That means that an investor can either forget such an idea or be tied to a country. Just imagine having money in the--
Mr. Welsh : I am grateful to my hon. Friend for helping in his usual shy and reserved way. It is good of him to come to the aid of an ordinary Back-Bencher who is not as involved as my hon. Friend in every aspect of the House
Mr. Welsh : And in banking. I should declare that I have a bank account with NatWest. I do not understand why--I suppose that it is the same for everyone--but every time my bank manager writes to me, he writes in red ink. He is a Socialist.