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Mr. Hain : If that is your ruling, of course I am obliged to respect it, Madam Speaker. As it has been alleged in a taunt from the Conservative Benches that this was some devious manoeuvre, may I say exactly what happened this evening ?. It is true that I knew that the debate was coming up. I did not know what time it would begin. I have spent most of the day and most of the evening checking and rechecking the information. It is not easy to get at the details. I did not know until well into the evening which hon. Members I would name to bring out my point about baby syndicates.
It is my fault that I did not put notice on the board until just after 10 o'clock. Although I have been a Member for three years, I was not aware that there was a rigid rule that the board closed at 10 o'clock. That is my fault. I came in and presented the notice to the board and found that it was closed. I did not hold it back as some devious manoeuvre. I was determined to ensure that before I named Members I was absolutely certain of my facts. That is the basis on which I proceed.
Are you saying that I am not allowed to refer to any other Members, Madam Speaker ?
Dr. Robert Spink (Castle Point) : I seek clarification on something that the hon. Gentleman said tonight. He said earlier that he did not make any accusation that hon. Members had sought preferential treatment or even that
Column 1130they knew that they had received preferential treatment--if indeed they did, which is very much in question. He went on to say a few moments ago, as Hansard will show, that hon. Members had sought to protect themselves. Will he clarify that ? If he means it, he is contradicting what he said earlier and making a serious accusation. He might want to clarify that point.
Mr. Hain : Hon. Members, whether acting through their members' agent or in any other capacity, have naturally sought to get the best deal that they can out of Lloyd's. No one could dispute that. No investor in Lloyd's is going to say, "Do your worst for me." Of course they are not going to do that. Suddenly hon. Members were withdrawn from the catastrophic loss- making years of 1989, 1990 and 1991--what a surprise!--so that they did not incur the losses that others have had to bear in their place. That is the central charge that I make.
I have spent the past few days going through the information, discovering that several hon. Members, some of whom, for reasons which you have explained, Madam Speaker, I have not been able to name, were on syndicates year after year through the 1980s until 1988 and suddenly they came off them. Why was that ? It was because 1989, 1990 and 1991 were the years when billions and billions of pounds of losses were suddenly incurred. They all fell on the external names and none of them appears to have fallen on Members of the House who are or were members of those syndicates until that time.
That is why it was very important for the Committee to retain that syndicate requirement. That would have required more open disclosure, and would also have allowed for a situation where Members could have defended themselves openly and positively against the attacks and allegations that I and others have made.
As it is now, the friends of those hon. Members who are Lloyd's names and who are in the market have the information. They are doing all the wheeler- dealing and carving others out of and themselves in to the preferential baby syndicates and others. [Interruption.] I wanted to name some of the people who had benefited from those, but I shall give way.
Mr. Peter Viggers (Gosport) : I declare an interest, as a member of Lloyd's since 1973--which predates my membership of the House--and also as a member of the council. Can the hon. Gentleman confirm that he has had a lot of conversations with Lloyd's and that Lloyd's has answered his questions ? Does he agree that he has not made any allegations to Lloyd's regulatory board which is there to regulate the Lloyd's market, and that he prefers to spread his smears here rather than put them to the regulatory board ? The chairman of the board is Sir Alan Hardcastle, a notable chartered accountant who used to be the head of the Government's accountancy service. The board has been sanctioned by the Bank of England and the Department of Trade and Industry, and it is there to deal with regulatory matters. Why does the hon. Gentleman try to give the impression that he has not been able to make his accusations fully and openly when the board is there to receive them ?
Mr. Hain : The very simple reason is that nobody has any confidence at all in the people running Lloyd's. They police their own markets. The sooner Lloyd's is brought under statutory regulation and has ceased to be a law unto
Column 1131itself, with people in it who police themselves and do what they like without any regard for anybody else or the rule of law, the better.
Column 1132I believe that if the House had kept to the syndicate rule, it would have encouraged a process whereby Lloyd's would have become properly regulated on a statutory basis, thereby enhancing its reputation and the reputation of the City of London. Instead, it is part of a sordid plot to cover up what has been going on in the Lloyd's market.
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Mr. David Evennett (Erith and Crayford) : I did not intend to speak, but, having heard the nonsense which spouted forth from the hon. Member for Neath (Mr. Hain), I feel that I must make a couple of points.
I endorse totally what the Committee Chairman, my hon. Friend the Member for Wealden (Sir G. Johnson Smith), said in his excellent speech. As someone who did declare all of the syndicates in which I participated--I was happy to do so--I was amazed at the comments of the hon. Member for Neath. I have been on syndicates, one of which the hon. Gentleman mentioned, since 1977, and my involvement pre-dates my membership of the House by many years. It is important that information is available and I endorse whole-heartedly what my hon. Friend said.
I think that we have just heard the most sleazy and slur-making speech from the hon. Gentleman, and I was appalled by it. If he spent all day researching his speech, it did not do him any good. The debate this evening has not been of the high calibre that we would have expected. It has been disappointing, and certainly the information given by the hon. Gentleman in respect of myself was inaccurate and wrong. That was not good from his point of view, and the people of Neath--whom he is supposed to represent-- will deplore what he said.
Mr. Terry Lewis (Worsley) : I wish to return to what I believe to be the main issue in the debate. It is not really about understanding what the numbers in the register are about, and I fear that my constituents would think that they were looking at bingo numbers if I showed them a copy of the Register of Members' Interests. There were important matters raised by those members of the Committee who did not share the view of the majority, and I must challenge the Committee Chairman to an extent. My disappointment arises from the motion on the Order Paper in the name of the Leader of the House which totally ignores the first part of the report. I believe that it is wrong for Members of the House--however venerable--to decide that they shall not enter into a disclosure that the House has demanded. They should be reprimanded, and that was a recommendation of the Committee. The Leader of the House should take note of that, and not just refer to recommendation 18.
It took the best part of four years to effect the original changes to the register. I have been a member of the Committee only for the past 12 months, but I believe that Members of the House have exerted pressure for the changes because, for their own reasons, they do not want to disclose what the House decided they should disclose. The Committee, in short, was bullied into making the changes. Given that it took so long to create the new register and work up the new insertions, this matter could have been considered in greater detail. It should not be forgotten that some very senior Members of the House were among the 11 who have been named.
I await the response of the Leader of the House with bated breath. The reprimand issued by the Committee in its report cannot be ignored for much longer. If the Committee is to continue to enjoy the confidence of the House, the report must be accepted in total by the right hon. Gentleman and he must give the House a chance to vote on it.
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Sir Anthony Durant (Reading, West) : I recently became a member of the Committee. When I joined it, preparations for the new register were in hand and it was about to be printed. I am not a member of Lloyd's and I know nothing about it, and I could not understand the figures at all. I agree with the hon. Member for Worsley (Mr. Lewis) : they looked like a lottery to me.
I therefore felt that that was the wrong way to proceed. But by then the register was already under way and had been printed. Subsequently, I have always argued for a different system. The Chairman has outlined the evidence that we took. I agree with him that Members should have filled in the forms--the first part of the report--because that was in line with a resolution of the House. There were reasons for reviewing the Lloyd's procedure, however. The hon. Member for Neath (Mr. Hain) tried to conduct a debate on Lloyd's that had nothing whatever to do with the register.
The purpose of the register is to assist hon. Members so that when a Member speaks in a debate on a particular subject, we can know why he is doing so. That was the original idea of the register and why it came about. It was never intended to be an expose of Lloyd's--that was never the purpose behind including the numbers either. I strongly support the Chairman's proposals. We shall have to look at this matter in the Committee, because just including the numbers means nothing to the outside world--except to investigative journalists and Members of Parliament. They certainly mean nothing to me. Certainly, we want to know whether a person is a member of Lloyd's and what his interests in Lloyd's are. When there are debates on insurance-related matters, we shall then know why the Member in question is saying what he is saying. That, surely, is the point of the register, and it is why I support the Chairman's proposal. 12.58 am
Mr. Nicholas Brown (Newcastle upon Tyne, East) : The motion invites the House to approve the proposals contained in paragraph 18 of the report by the Select Committee on Members' Interests, headed "Registration of Lloyd's Syndicates".
I do not want to state a final view ; I have not reached a final view about what the rules for registration ought to be. We invited members of the Select Committee to look at that for us. They will have heard detailed evidence and carefully weighed the issue before making their recommendation.
What strikes me--and obviously struck my hon. Friend the Member for Worsley (Mr. Lewis)--is what our attitude to the existing rules should be and what I believe is the clear requirement on right hon. and hon. Members to comply with them.
The report does not just set out what the Committee believes the new rules should be--and we have a motion from the Lord President recommending them to the House and confirming that they will be the new rules. The report also contains paragraph 7, to which the Lord President's motion does not refer and to which his speech did not refer either. That paragraph states :
"Whatever the circumstances, the refusal by individual Members to comply with a rule which has been agreed by the House sets a bad precedent and is to be deprecated. We accordingly draw the attention of the House to the fact that the Members named in paragraph 3 above have refused to register their Lloyd's syndicate numbers as required by the House's resolution of 28 June 1993."
Column 1135The matter cannot simply be swept aside. We should require hon. Members to comply with our original decision, just as I assume that we will be requiring them to comply with the new decision which the Leader of the House is urging on us tonight.
It is not enough to deprecate the fact that hon. Members refused to comply. The Leader of the House should have something more to say about the matter ; at least he should have something to say about the matter. Are the hon. Members who refused to comply with the House's clearly expressed wishes to be punished ? Apparently not. Where does that leave those hon. Members-- almost entirely Conservative Members--who did comply perfectly properly with the wishes of the House ? They were right to do so and I applaud them, but they must feel rather aggrieved that they complied and others did not. An hon. Member who spoke earlier in the debate referred to proceeding in a way that was fair and reasonable. We have to be fair and reasonable to every hon. Member. It is particularly right to be fair and reasonable to those hon. Members who have complied with the wishes of the House. Clearly we should have something to say to those hon. Members who have not complied with the wishes of the House.
Sir Gerard Vaughan : I hope that the hon. Gentleman will accept that there was no intention of carrying out any contempt of the House. It just seemed that the Committee, which has done an excellent job, was asking for information the purpose of which we simply could not understand. We approached the Chairman of the Committee, who willingly listened to us and, on reflection, the Committee has now decided that different rules should be adopted.
Mr. Brown : In life, we all get asked to do things that we do not understand. If it is a lawful request, we comply with it. That is the point I am making to the House. It is not up to us to choose which rules of this place we comply with--just the ones that are convenient to us--and to overlook the others.
Those are not my observations on the matter ; I am being careful not to substitute my views for what the rules should be. I am referring to the decision of the Select Committee which has clearly decided to deprecate the refusal of Members of the House to register. They may well have had reasons for that and may well have argued with the Select Committee. I am sure that they did ; nevertheless, I understand why the Select Committee has put the proposal before us. On behalf of the whole House, the Lord President has a duty to reply to the debate and put the Government's view on paragraph 7 as well as their clearer view on paragraph 18.
In paragraph 7, the Committee made a number of comments which contain no recommendation. In the later paragraphs, it made a number of recommendations which require a resolution of the House to implement them. That is what the resolution provides for, and I spoke to that.
Column 1136I shall say only one other thing, particularly to the hon. Member for Neath (Mr. Hain), whose speech made it clear, in conjunction with remarks of my hon. Friend the Member for Gosport (Mr. Viggers), that the comments that he made, without having properly informed the people about whom he made them or intended to make them, did not follow any attempt to make complaints to the appropriate investigating body.
Mr. Campbell-Savours rose
The hon. Member for Neath made it clear that he had not communicated any complaint to the proper investigating authorities at Lloyd's. I presume from the fact that he intended to make his remarks and partially made them here, rather than anywhere else, that he is not prepared to list the names and suggestions outside the House.
Mr. Hain : I am fully prepared to make the information available. It was derived from sources within Lloyd's, from an analysis of the Lloyd's blue book and from an analysis of Chatset league tables. Anyone who takes the trouble that I took can find that information, and I am not seeking to use the privilege of the House.
Lloyd's has never invited me to expand on any of the early-day motions that I have tabled--as the Leader of the House knows--for the past two years, with the Speaker's permission. The reason is that Lloyd's is not interested, because it wanted to cover up what is going on in the market.
Mr. Newton : The hon. Gentleman has assured the House that he did not intend to take any action under the cloak of parliamentary privilege that he would not take in another context. Of course I accept his word, but I think that--following what I have said, what the hon. Gentleman has said and what my hon. Friend the Member for Gosport said--the hon. Gentleman's proper course would be to make whatever suggestions he wishes to make, and to give whatever information he wishes to give, to the body to which my hon. Friend referred, or make it available for investigation in other ways. It was clear from the hon. Gentleman's speech that his reason for wishing all the information--the syndicate numbers--to be placed in the Register of Members' Interests had little, if anything, to do with what he thought it proper to require of Members in relation to their duties in the House, and everything to do with a political campaign that he is waging in relation to Lloyd's. As Leader of the House, I take the view that what should concern us is what is proper for the Register of Members' Interests in the House. I think that the Committee's recommendations are sensible in that respect, and I commend them again to the House.
Mr. Nicholas Brown rose
Madam Speaker : Order. I must clear one thing at a time. I will take the point of order in a moment. Is the hon. Member for Newcastle upon Tyne, East (Mr. Brown) allowed to speak ? I understand that he is. First, I will take the point of order from the hon. Member for Reading, East (Sir G. Vaughan).
Mr. Nicholas Brown : The Leader of the House referred to campaigns. It seems to me that the most successful campaign has been that mounted by the members of Lloyd's syndicates who have refused to comply with our original decision that they should register. Instead of compelling them to comply with that decision, the rules have been altered.
The Committee may well have good reason for its action ; I am not saying that it has not. I am saying, however, that the Lord President should have had something much sterner to say about the refusal of those hon. Members to comply with the original decision of the House. As he can say nothing about paragraph 7 of the report, I urge my hon. Friends to vote for the amendment.
"Whatever the circumstances, the refusal by individual Members to comply with a rule which has been agreed by the House sets a bad precedent and is to be deprecated."
Will the Leader of the House come to the Dispatch Box and deprecate the activities of five knights of the realm, a former Prime Minister and five Conservative Members of Parliament ? Will he do that please ? There is time before the end of the debate.
Mr. Harry Barnes (Derbyshire, North-East) : The decision that was made by the original Select Committee on Members' Interests was that the syndicate numbers should be recorded and it was accepted by the House. Does the Leader of the House believe that that was done in some fit of absent- mindedness and therefore does not matter ? What are the reasons for dismissing the original report, which was carried after an amendment was put to the Committee, by five votes to one, without the alternative position being argued ?
Mr. Paul Flynn (Newport, West) rose
Mr. Flynn : I am afraid that the braying like daleks that we have heard from Conservative Members is characteristic of the disgraceful debate that we have just had. We had a debate on this subject some months ago and there were fewer Members present then than there have been tonight. Similar allegations were made by my hon. Friend the Member for Neath (Mr. Hain) and, with great bitterness, by a member of Lloyd's the hon. Member for Gloucestershire, West (Mr. Marland). The substance of what has been said by my hon. Friend the Member for Neath has been greeted by the closing of ranks by the spokesman for the Establishment. That is a disgrace and stains further the reputation of the House.
Question put, That the amendment be made :
The House divided : Ayes 30, Noes 130.
Division No. 294] [1.11 am
Beith, Rt Hon A. J.
Brown, N. (N'c'tle upon Tyne E)
Campbell-Savours, D. N.
Clwyd, Mrs Ann
Foster, Rt Hon Derek
Godman, Dr Norman A.
Howarth, George (Knowsley N)
Marshall, Jim (Leicester, S)
Michie, Bill (Sheffield Heeley)
Tellers for the Ayes :
Mr. Terry Lewis and
Mr. Harry Barnes.
Allason, Rupert (Torbay)
Arnold, Jacques (Gravesham)
Atkinson, Peter (Hexham)
Baker, Nicholas (Dorset North)
Brooke, Rt Hon Peter
Browning, Mrs. Angela
Bruce, Ian (S Dorset)
Clarke, Rt Hon Kenneth (Ruclif)
Coombs, Simon (Swindon)
Cope, Rt Hon Sir John
Curry, David (Skipton & Ripon)
Davies, Quentin (Stamford)
Davis, David (Boothferry)
Douglas-Hamilton, Lord James
Durant, Sir Anthony
Emery, Rt Hon Sir Peter
Evans, Nigel (Ribble Valley)
Evans, Roger (Monmouth)
Fenner, Dame Peggy
Forsyth, Michael (Stirling)
Fox, Dr Liam (Woodspring)
Freeman, Rt Hon Roger
Goodson-Wickes, Dr Charles
Hamilton, Neil (Tatton)
Hogg, Rt Hon Douglas (G'tham)
Howard, Rt Hon Michael
Howell, Sir Ralph (N Norfolk)
Hughes Robert G. (Harrow W)
Hunt, Rt Hon David (Wirral W)
Johnson Smith, Sir Geoffrey
Jones, Gwilym (Cardiff N)
Knight, Mrs Angela (Erewash)
Knight, Greg (Derby N)
Kynoch, George (Kincardine)
Lait, Mrs Jacqui
Lang, Rt Hon Ian
Lilley, Rt Hon Peter
Lloyd, Rt Hon Peter (Fareham)
Lyell, Rt Hon Sir Nicholas