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Transfers to subsidiaries: distribution of funds

Lords amendment: No. 7.

12 pm

Sir John Butterfill: I beg to move, That this House agrees with the Lords in the said amendment.

The Channel Islands and the Isle of Man were not included within the scope of the original Bill. It is my understanding that it is usual for us to consult them before making legislation that would affect them. It is also my understanding that they have indicated that they would like to be included within the legislation, but no doubt the Minister will able to confirm that. I can see no reason why the Channel Islands and the Isle of Man should be excluded. If the rest of the EEA is included—they are, of course, outside the EU—they should, as part of the United Kingdom, be included.

Lembit Öpik: I feel duty bound to ask whether the amendment, if passed, would make it more difficult for a financial mutual in the United Kingdom to enter into a merger agreement with a kipper-making co-operative on the Isle of Man.

Sir John Butterfill: I doubt it, is the answer. We have heard all sorts of strange suggestions as to who might merge with whom. All such mergers would require approval by the Treasury and the FSA. I am reassured that they are sensible enough to make sensible decisions.

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Mr. Chope: Can my hon. Friend tell us when he first approached the Channel Islands and Isle of Man authorities to find out whether they wanted to be included in the Bill and why it was not apparent at the outset, when he first launched it, that they wished to be included?

Sir John Butterfill: I did not approach them myself—I understand that they were approached by the Treasury and asked to be included, but perhaps the Minister could confirm that.

Mr. Chope: Few people would wish to quibble with Lords amendment No. 7. However, I hope that the Minister will both respond to my question about how it came about that those authorities wanted to be included in the Bill at such a late stage and say what she sees as the implications of that. We quite often hear complaints in the House that a different regulatory regime operates in, for example, the Channel Islands or the Isle of Man from that which Parliament imposes here, and that that regulatory regime is often less protective of consumer interests. For example, the other day I attended a breakfast at which the issue of health supplements was raised in that context. Concern was expressed that the Channel Islands’ regime for regulating health supplements was rather different from that which applied in the UK. What guarantees can the Minister give that the implications of extending the Bill to the Channel Islands and the Isle of Man are compatible with being able to look after the best interests of individual investors or members of mutual organisations?

Philip Davies: I, too, would like to raise a query that I hope the Minister can address. Lords amendment No. 7 says:

I suspect that that is standard wording for a Bill of this nature. However, I understand that not all the current legislation covering mutuals is so extended to cover the Channel Islands and the Isle of Man. I wonder whether the Minister could touch on which legislation is and which is not, and what implications that might have, as I understand that all previous legislation at least has the capacity to include the Channel Islands and the Isle of Man. Perhaps the Minister could therefore clarify whether the amendment would, as a matter of course, apply to the Channel Islands and the Isle of Man or whether it just means that it could apply them, should they so wish at a future date.

Kitty Ussher: I shall be happy to provide that clarification. My understanding is that the drafters of the Bill had not spotted the fact that other, similar types of legislation applied to the Channel Islands and the Isle of Man. When the Bill was being discussed in the House, during its earlier stages, there was not time to make the necessary consultations. We have a policy not to introduce such permissive extent clauses without consulting those involved—in this case, the islands—first. That has now happened and I am happy to confirm that they are content with being included, hence the amendment. I hope that that will answer the point raised by the hon. Member for Bournemouth, West (Sir John Butterfill).

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I also understand that the Industrial and Provident Societies Act 1965 applies to the Channel Islands, and that there are powers to apply the Friendly Societies Act 1992 to the islands and the Isle of Man, which have not been fully used.

Mr. Burns: Does the Minister anticipate that Orders in Council will be issued at some point?

Kitty Ussher: My understanding is that this measure will make that possible, but I am not in a position to say whether it will actually happen. However, everyone is happy with the situation.

Mr. Burns: Given that the Minister has told us that discussions have taken place with the Channel Islands and, possibly, the Isle of Man, can she tell us whether this point was ever raised either by the Government with them, or by them with the Government?

Kitty Ussher: I know that the islands’ authorities were consulted and were content with the proposed amendment. I shall be happy to provide further details at a later stage if the hon. Gentleman considers that necessary.

Mr. Chope: Will the Minister give way?

Kitty Ussher: I will give the hon. Gentleman one last go.

Mr. Chope: Bearing in mind the uncertainty about the timetable, will the Minister tell us whether it will be possible for the Channel Islands and the Isle of Man to implement the provisions of the Bill before the United Kingdom Government implement them?

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Kitty Ussher: I am not sure whether that would be possible, but I can see no difficulties arising if it were to happen.

Mr. Burns: Will the Minister give way on that point?

Kitty Ussher: The hon. Gentleman is being extremely persistent. I will take one further intervention.

Mr. Burns: I am grateful. I was most interested to hear the Minister’s response to my hon. Friend the Member for Christchurch (Mr. Chope). Surely neither the Channel Islands nor the Isle of Man could implement the legislation before the British Government had done so, because it would be the British Government’s implementation of the different phases of the legislation that would trigger any subsequent actions that might flow from it.

Kitty Ussher: I apologise for not being a world expert on the legal situation relating to the Channel Islands and the Isle of Man. I shall clarify the situation. The amendment will allow the Bill to be extended to the islands. It will be used only if the relevant mutuals legislation is extended, and it will then affect only those mutuals established in the Channel Islands and the Isle of Man. No time frame has been agreed at the moment; that will be sorted out during the consultation period. I must also apologise to the House and clarify that the Isle of Man could not implement the provisions before we had done so.

I commend Lords amendment No. 7 to the House.

Lords amendment agreed to.

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Crown Employment (Nationality) Bill

Not amended in the Committee, considered.

New Clause 1


Brought up and read the First time.

12.8 pm

Mr. Christopher Chope (Christchurch) (Con): I beg to move, That the clause be read a Second time.

Before introducing the new clause, which is tabled in my name and that of my right hon. Friend the Member for East Yorkshire (Mr. Knight) and of my hon. Friend the Member for Shipley (Philip Davies), may I apologise to the promoter of the Bill on behalf of my right hon. Friend the Member for East Yorkshire for his absence from the House today? My right hon. Friend was particularly keen to be here because he has always had a lot of respect for the hon. Member for Hendon (Mr. Dismore). He was able to participate in a debate on an almost identical new clause some three years ago, but today he was faced with a dilemma, as a big constituency event about the future of Bridlington hospital is taking place and he felt that he should attend it. The Government have proposals to reduce the activities of that hospital, which is—

Madam Deputy Speaker (Sylvia Heal): Order. It is sufficient that the hon. Gentleman has given his right hon. Friend’s apologies to the House.

Mr. Chope: Madam Deputy Speaker, my right hon. Friend particularly asked me to say that because the mother of the hon. Member for Hendon lives in his constituency in Bridlington, and he thought that he was serving the family—

Madam Deputy Speaker: Order. I have already ruled on this point.

Mr. Chope: I am sure that my right hon. Friend will be satisfied with what I have tried to do on his behalf.

The new clause has a history. It was debated some three years and four days ago on 15 October 2004. It was drafted by my late and much lamented friend, Eric Forth, who was unable to promote it at that time because he was called away, shall we say, to parliamentary business in the Maldive islands. He therefore left it to my right hon. Friend the Member for East Yorkshire, myself and others to carry the torch on his behalf on that occasion. In case there should be any
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doubt about plagiarism, I admit that the drafting of the new clause is not my own doing, but that of my late former right hon. Friend, Eric Forth.

The fact that the new clause has once again been selected for debate shows how it has stood the test of time and relevance. It is important because it also illustrates a sense of fair play and the desire to ensure the rights and freedoms of individuals. That was always right at the top of my late right hon. Friend’s agenda. He wanted Parliament to be able to do that on behalf of the people.

The purpose and effect of the new clause is to provide a counterweight to clause 2. As drafted, the clause gives “a Minister” or

the power to impose “new nationality requirements” on those seeking employment or office in any

The new clause would give anyone aggrieved by the impact of the new nationality requirements the right to appeal to a tribunal for an exemption. That is why it is important to reflect on the new clause today. It involves the setting up of a tribunal and a right to appeal to it. It does not give the tribunal the right to impose its will on the Government; rather, it has an opportunity to make recommendations. It is not an absolute right of appeal, but a modest way of taking some steam out of what may be a bit of a cauldron for individuals who fall foul of the provisions in clause 2.

Philip Davies (Shipley) (Con): My hon. Friend rightly says that the new clause would give the tribunal powers only to recommend to a Minister of the Crown that an exemption should be made. Does he agree that in all likelihood it would be quite extraordinary for a Minister to ignore the tribunal’s findings.

Mr. Chope: I accept what my hon. Friend says. The House would be able to put pressure on a Minister if he tried to wriggle out and not accept the tribunal’s recommendations. The Minister would have the opportunity to come before the House and set out why he did not agree with the tribunal’s reasoning in making the recommendation. It is a necessary safeguard.

12.15 pm

Philip Davies: In that case, what circumstances can my hon. Friend envisage in which a Minister might wish to overrule the tribunal?

Mr. Chope: All that I can say to my hon. Friend is that when I had the privilege of being a Minister, albeit a junior one, in a Conservative Government, we always took seriously the rulings and recommendations of appeal bodies. Being a fair-minded person, I would like to think that the present Government, for all their faults—I am delighted to see the Parliamentary Secretary to the Cabinet Office, the hon. Member for Lincoln (Gillian Merron), on the Front Bench—would be minded to accept the recommendations of a tribunal. My hon. Friend tempts me to make a party political point, but I will not do so on this occasion.

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Mr. Simon Burns (West Chelmsford) (Con): My hon. Friend will notice that in relation to clause 2, with which his new clause would deal, the explanatory notes say:

It would be interesting to know whether they “will”, rather than “would”, comply. Does my hon. Friend agree that his new clause, in introducing an appeal system, would increase the likelihood of compliance?

Mr. Chope: My hon. Friend is on to a good point, because it is important, when considering human rights and individual freedoms, for people to have a means of redress if they feel aggrieved. The new clause would enable some right of redress if a person felt aggrieved. In the absence of the new clause, a sufficiently accessible right of redress will not be available.

Mr. Burns: In the light of that, is my hon. Friend as surprised as me that the Bill’s promoter did not have the foresight to include that protection when drafting it?

Mr. Chope: There hangs a story. When I and others spoke to the new clause some three years ago in this place, it was pointed out that the hon. Member for Hendon had had the opportunity to see the new clause for some considerable time; as I recall, the new clause was tabled in July, and the debate did not take place until October. He therefore had the opportunity to do something about it. In fairness to him, however, he was in a slight dilemma, because he said in that debate that he was neutral about the new clause. It then became apparent that the Government were—to put it mildly—hostile. I suspect that, because he is an ambitious and realistic person, he decided that it would be better not to promote a new clause to which he had heard previously that the Government were hostile. I do not know what his attitude will be today, as I have not had the chance to talk to him about it.

Mr. Burns: Given that that was three years ago, many reshuffles have occurred since and the hon. Gentleman has not found preferment, perhaps he will revert to his natural inclinations now, as it would not affect his career one way or another?

Madam Deputy Speaker: Order. Perhaps the hon. Member for Christchurch (Mr. Chope) will confine his remarks to the new clause that he is promoting.

Mr. Chope: Certainly, Madam Deputy Speaker. The issue raised by my hon. Friend the Member for West Chelmsford (Mr. Burns) relates to whether the new clause is likely to find favour with the promoter of the Bill. I am in the dark on that matter, and we will have to wait and see what the hon. Member for Hendon has to say.

Three years ago, the new clause was welcomed by my hon. Friend the Member for Beaconsfield (Mr. Grieve), who was then on the Front Bench. I hope that it will be welcomed equally by my hon. Friend the Member for Tunbridge Wells (Greg Clark), whom I am delighted to see on the Front Bench today.

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