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Mr. Graham Stuart (Beverley and Holderness) (Con): Today’s East Riding Mail reports that the new East Riding of Yorkshire Primary Care Trust wishes to
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close the bedded units in Beverley, Driffield, Hornsea and Withernsea. Does the Minister accept that such financially driven cuts must be stopped, or else the consequences will be dire not only for patient’s but for local authority budgets?

Mr. Woolas: It is only proper for me to respond by saying that our public services have to balance the books. I do not think that the good people of east Yorkshire—of the beautiful market towns and other places that the hon. Gentleman mentioned—misunderstand the point that the Government are making when we say that there has been a real-terms increase in health expenditure in this country of 90 per cent. so far. I disagree with the idea that a trust or hospital that is balancing its books can be fairly described as making cuts; it is not doing that. The hon. Gentleman does his campaign no good by pretending otherwise. The public simply will not believe him when he says on the one hand that there are cuts, and on the other hand criticises the Government in other forums for allegedly overspending on public expenditure.

Bills Presented

Greater London Authority

Secretary Ruth Kelly, supported by the Prime Minister, Mr. Secretary Prescott, Mr. Chancellor of the Exchequer, Ms Secretary Hewitt, Secretary Tessa Jowell, Secretary David Miliband, Mr. Secretary Alexander, Yvette Cooper and Jim Fitzpatrick, presented a Bill to make further provision with respect to the Greater London Authority; to amend the Greater London Authority Act 1999; to make further provision with respect to the functional bodies, within the meaning of that Act, and the Museum of London; and for connected purposes: And the same was read the First time; and ordered to be read a Second time tomorrow, and to be printed. Explanatory notes to be printed [Bill 11].


Mr. Secretary Hutton, supported by the Prime Minister, Mr. Secretary Prescott, Mr. Chancellor of the Exchequer, Mr. Jack Straw, Hilary Armstrong, Mr. Secretary Hain, Secretary Ruth Kelly, Mr. Secretary Alexander, James Purnell and Mr. James Plaskitt, presented a Bill to make provision about pensions and other benefits payable to persons in connection with bereavement or by reference to pensionable age; to make provision about the establishment and functions of the Personal Accounts Delivery Authority; and for connected purposes: And the same was read the First time; and ordered to be read a Second time tomorrow, and to be printed. Explanatory notes to be printed [Bill 12].

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Orders of the Day

Investment Exchanges and Clearing Houses Bill

Order for Second Reading read.

4.24 pm

The Economic Secretary to the Treasury (Ed Balls): I beg to move, That the Bill be now read a Second Time.

I start by expressing my gratitude for the close co-operation that we have enjoyed in preparing today’s Bill—from the shadow Minister, the hon. Member for Fareham (Mr. Hoban), from the hon. Member for Twickenham (Dr. Cable), from their spokesperson colleagues in the other place, and from other interested stakeholders across the City of London, particularly the recognised exchanges themselves, with whom we have been able to discuss the Bill in recent weeks. I hope that we can demonstrate today to the outside world that—perhaps unusually for this place—we have been able to reach a consensus in the national interest on the way forward on this important issue: both inside this House with Opposition Members, and outside it among practitioners in the City. I am also grateful for Members’ co-operation in allowing us to move the Bill quickly through its Commons stages and detailed scrutiny this afternoon, in what are unusual circumstances.

As Opposition and other Members will know, the Bill fulfils the commitment that I gave in a written statement to the House on 13 September to enhance the power of the Financial Services Authority to veto changes to the rules of UK-recognised investment exchanges and clearing houses where they are deemed disproportionate.

Mr. John Redwood (Wokingham) (Con): Why do we need a guillotine? This is about the first piece of Labour legislation that some of us actually want. It is sensible and there is agreement in all parts of the House—why can we not have an open debate, given that we want to get it through as much as the Minister does?

Ed Balls: I am grateful to the right hon. Gentleman for his intervention; hopefully, he will make a more substantive contribution in due course. I expect that there will be plenty of time in this debate for various points to be made by Members in all parts of the House. I very much look forward to the right hon. Gentleman’s contribution; I hope that it will be as revealing and interesting as yesterday’s was.

My statement of 13 September was prompted by concerns about the potential implications of a possible takeover bid for the London stock exchange. At that time, a bid by NASDAQ, the US stock market, for the LSE was still only a possibility. As Members will know, NASDAQ has now announced an offer for the LSE, so with a bid on the table it is important that we move swiftly. Our aim, with the co-operation of both Houses, is for the Bill to gain Royal Assent as soon as possible, consistent with proper parliamentary scrutiny. With support from all parts of the House, it should be possible to achieve that before the NASDAQ bid reaches its important point.

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Before I turn to the Bill’s detail, I want to set out the wider context. London today is widely seen as one of only two truly global financial centres in the world. It is the location for 70 per cent. of the global secondary bond market, for more than 40 per cent. of global derivatives, and for more than 40 per cent. of cross-border equities trading. London today has more foreign banks than any other financial centre, and it is the location for the headquarters of six of the world’s 10 largest international law firms. Based on its global reach and its reputation for free, fair and open global markets, London has in recent years been attracting business and listings from around the world. We are determined to keep it that way.

I believe that international businesses have located in the City because of four great strengths: our commitment to the rule of law and the highest professional standards; the skills and flexibility of the work force and our ability to attract talent from around the world; our long-standing tradition of openness and internationalism—a global approach to competition and ownership that has allowed the City to innovate and to respond to new challenges; and the FSA’s highly respected principles-based and risk-based approach to regulation, which has been put in place over the past decade. I know that the whole House will join me today in paying tribute to the many men and women from across our country and abroad who work hard in the City and in our other UK financial services to build the City’s reputation and to contribute to its strengths.

However, we are not complacent. Back in May, when I first became the Minister responsible for such matters, concerns were expressed to me about the effects of a possible takeover of the London stock exchange by a company based outside the UK, and the threat that that might pose to London’s attractiveness as a place for international listing and wider business. Some Members will know that the UK has for some years been open to overseas investment in UK exchanges. The London international financial futures and options exchange, ICE Futures and virt-x are all owned by overseas companies. Such overseas interest in UK exchanges in part reflects our principles-based approach to regulation, which has been flexible enough to accommodate the desire of exchanges to innovate in recent years, but rigorous enough to ensure the probity and integrity of our markets.

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