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Page 1, line 10, at end insert ("and must be a company limited by guarantee").

The noble Lord said: I must apologise to the Committee. On looking at the amendment on the Marshalled List I see that there is a drafting error. Instead of reading "Page 1, line 18", it should read "Page 1, line 10". It does not change the substantive issue on the Bill.

The aim of the amendment is to find out why the Minister will not put on the face of the Bill the fact that it should be a company limited by guarantee.

The Deputy Chairman of Committees (Lord Brougham and Vaux): I am advised by the Clerk that Amendment No. 2 cannot be taken now; it should have been taken before Amendment No. 1. The noble Lord therefore will have to bring it back at Report stage.

[Amendment No. 2 not moved.]

[Amendment No. 3 not moved.]

Lord Redesdale moved Amendment No. 4:

Page 2, line 6, at end insert:
("( ) Any order under this section shall be subject to annulment in pursuance of a resolution of either House of Parliament.").

The noble Lord said: In moving Amendment No. 4 I shall speak also to Amendment No. 12 which is grouped with it. The two amendments seek to ensure that Parliament has the ability to scrutinise the eventual form

23 Mar 1995 : Column 1334

of the successor company. They follow closely the recommendations put forward by the scrutiny committee which, in relation to Amendment No. 4, reads:

    "The Committee therefore draws the power in Clause 1 to the attention of the House as the House may wish to consider whether the order nominating the successor company should be subject to the negative procedure to give the House an opportunity to debate the order should any member wish to do so".

In relation to Amendment No. 12 the committee said:

    "The Committee notes that it is intended to use the power only once. However, it can be used to displace existing orders that are themselves subject to the affirmative procedure. The House may therefore wish to consider whether the affirmative procedure might be more appropriate for the exercise of this power".

I believe that the Minister covered some of the points as to why objection will be taken to the amendment. However, in raising the issue, the noble Baroness said that in previous enabling Bills the suggestions that I am putting forward were not seen to be appropriate. Perhaps she can advise us which former enabling Bills dealt with the issue. The successor company will be moved from the public to the private sector, but it will not be a trade sell-off; there will be no buyer of the company. This appears to be, therefore, a new form of enabling Bill. Perhaps the Minister can give us earlier examples if that is not so.

The Minister said that the Bill is being introduced for the good of the Crown Agents. The amendments seek to ensure that Parliament is given the right to scrutinise the orders. In the Second Reading debate the Minister said that it was not necessary to dot the "i"s and cross the "t"s. The amendment was tabled to enable us to see what the successor company will look like and what form it will take. We do not believe that the words are present in the Bill to enable us to dot the "i"s and cross the "t"s. I beg to move.

Lord Judd: I am happy to support the noble Lord on Amendment No. 4 on the grounds that I mentioned earlier this afternoon. I am convinced that simply because of the value of the asset, the commitment that has gone into it and its significance not only for the work the Crown Agents do themselves but also for the whole standing of the United Kingdom throughout the world, this is not something to be handled lightly behind the filing cabinets of Whitehall. It is something to be done openly; to be demonstrably well done and to be debated and scrutinised in this Chamber. Therefore I warmly applaud the amendment.

Baroness Elles: I wish to speak to Amendment No. 13 concerning the negative resolution on Clause 12(2).

Baroness Trumpington: I wonder whether my noble friend has made a mistake. Does she wish to speak to Amendment No. 12? My noble friend said Amendment No. 13, but that does not come within this group.

Baroness Elles: I apologise to the Committee. I wish to speak to Amendment No. 12 which is to be taken in conjunction with Amendment No. 4. I wish to refer the Committee to the Third Report from the Delegated Powers Scrutiny Committee which specifically says:

    "Orders are not subject to Parliamentary control although they are statutory instruments by virtue of Clause 12(2). The House may consider that the purpose to be achieved by orders under Clause 12(1) is sufficiently defined to make the absence of Parliamentary control acceptable".

23 Mar 1995 : Column 1335

One would think therefore that the forceful arguments made by the noble Lord, Lord Redesdale, are inappropriate in this case.

Lord Simon of Glaisdale: We must realise that officials have to go on administering this Bill and other affairs, and that parliamentary control is an appalling nuisance to them. For centuries there has been tension between the Executive and the legislature and the officials are by no means to be blamed. A Bill is the worst thing from their point of view, with three Readings or more in each House with the possibility of amendments which are generally, in the view of Whitehall, ill considered, throwing them off their course. That is the worst thing. The affirmative resolution is next worst; the negative resolution follows after; and no parliamentary control is just heaven.

We have been through all this time and again. In the end, the opinion in your Lordships' House was so strong that the Jellicoe Committee advised the setting up of a scrutiny committee. That was the one proposal of the Jellicoe Committee as to which the Government expressed reservation. The reservation was a typical Whitehall reservation. It was quite understandable, as I said, but there is no reason why your Lordships should put up with it. We now have the scrutiny committee and it is most important that we should insist that when it draws a matter to the attention of your Lordships' House, in terms that are now significant in the signals it emits, your Lordships should follow the guidance of the scrutiny committee.

I respectfully agree with the noble Baroness, Lady Elles, that there is a distinction here, reading the scrutiny committee report, between the two amendments. However, in my respectful opinion we should certainly follow implicitly where the scrutiny committee disapproves of the absence of sufficient parliamentary control. I certainly support the second amendment.

4.30 p.m.

Baroness Chalker of Wallasey: In moving Amendment No. 4, with which Amendment No. 12 to Clause 13 is grouped, the noble Lord, Lord Redesdale, said that this was an unusual privatisation—I paraphrase his words—and that because there would be no trade sell-off there would perhaps need to be some further provision for examination. The very opposite may be true, because there are precedents in the field of privatisation legislation in which the Minister has been given power to amend primary and secondary legislation for consequential purposes by means of negative procedure orders. However, this is not one of those.

I understand very well what the noble and learned Lord, Lord Simon of Glaisdale, and my noble friend Lady Elles are saying and I have taken great care to note the recommendations of the Delegated Powers Scrutiny Committee in its third report. The concern which they have expressed by inviting your Lordships to consider whether the order nominating the successor company should be subject to the negative procedure is reflected in the noble Lord's amendment. But during this debate the case has been put under Amendment No. 4 for introducing the affirmative resolution procedure under

23 Mar 1995 : Column 1336

Clause 1 of the Bill. In speaking to Amendment No. 1, with which Amendment No. 3 was grouped, I explained why I did not feel able to accept that. So the same considerations, needless to say, apply to Amendment No. 4. I think it would be inappropriate and unnecessary to accept that amendment. Although Amendment No. 12 goes less far in proposing the negative procedure, the principle is still the same.

Perhaps I may now focus my remarks on the comments of my noble friend Lady Elles and the noble and learned Lord, Lord Simon of Glaisdale. I understood well the report from the Delegated Powers Scrutiny Committee but I feel I should emphasise to the Committee that these are consequential matters. The power is there so that references to the Crown Agents in subordinate legislation can be removed or altered in so far as is necessary in consequence of the Bill—that is to say, in consequence of the fact that the Crown Agents will no longer exist as a public body. I can accept that at least one of the statutory instruments needing amendment was made by the affirmative resolution procedure. There may be others. But in these cases the amendments or the revocations are likely to be very minor indeed. Precedent on Bills such as this does not require the affirmative procedure for consequential matters even where a Minister is given the power to deal with primary legislation, as I cited at the beginning of my remarks to the noble Lord, Lord Redesdale.

There is sympathy for the principle that there should be appropriate parliamentary control over subordinate regulation-making powers. However, I am not convinced that a requirement for a debate in both Houses to approve the kinds of amendments and revocations which may be made by the power under Clause 13 would be appropriate. Your Lordships know that I am always happy to debate these matters and I shall be happy indeed to attend on a Friday to do so. I imagine that that is when such matters would be tabled in this House. But I foresee that there would be a need for a special introduction of Friday business if we were to have such debates on all the legislation—for if the procedure is carried out for this Bill, it will need to be carried out for a number of other Bills.

My problem is this. I do not know what more we would be saying than we were actually saying in our Second Reading debate. The order before us would be an order whose sole purpose would be to tidy up provisions of other statutory instruments referring to Crown Agents, the statutory corporation. Once the transfer under this Bill takes place those provisions would become ineffective because there would no longer be Crown Agents as such. Therefore, I have some real difficulty in deciding what might be then discussed.

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