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Lord Taylor of Blackburn: My Lords, I declare an interest as a member of the Nationwide Building Society. I am sorry that other Members of the House who are interested in the agricultural world have not done that this morning. Can the Minister say whether there are other measures that he believes building societies themselves can take to prohibit the action that took place last week with the Nationwide Building Society and the costs that the members had to incur to prevent the carpet-baggers trying to take over the society?

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Lord McIntosh of Haringey: My Lords, my noble friend is certainly right that carpet-baggers cause considerable cost and disruption to mutual building societies. They cause additional management costs and put a strain on the service to existing members. I am sure he is also right that there are steps that building societies themselves can take to discourage carpet-bagging. For example, they might consider whether the emphasis on a flat-rate windfall does not actually encourage carpet-bagging.

Lord Dean of Beswick: My Lords, the Minister gave a detailed reply to the initial Question. But is any legislation at present in place, financial or otherwise, that the Government can resort to or place at the disposal of people to stop this practice taking place? If there is not any legislation in place, can the Minister try to get the Government to speed up the inquiry that is taking place with a view to putting a law on the statute book to deal with this situation?

Lord McIntosh of Haringey: My Lords, my noble friend will remember that the Building Societies Act 1997 was enacted just before the election, with all-party agreement. That reduces the temptation, if I may put it that way, to depart from mutual status by giving building societies greater powers to extend the range of businesses that they undertake. I am sure that that is the most important and effective way of reducing carpet-bagging and preserving mutuality.

Lord Skelmersdale: My Lords, is not the answer to the problem in the hands of the members of the mutual society concerned? Is it not a fact that under existing law every member of a mutual society has a vote in such a situation and it is for the members to determine whether the mutual society should convert into a bank?

Lord McIntosh of Haringey: My Lords, the noble Lord is right to say that the answer lies in the hands of the members. Unfortunately, recent experiences do not give us confidence that the members will take full account of the long-term interests of the society and its future members. The result of the Nationwide ballot was, of course, welcome, but, as the noble Lord will know, a number of societies have been invaded by people who are only out for a windfall gain rather than for the long-term benefit of the society.

Lord Burnham: My Lords, is it not the case that the enactment of Section 9 of the Building Societies Act would largely solve the problem? Further than that, undesirable as carpet-bagging is, is it not also the case that every step which is being proposed to stop it equally discourages small investors for whom the building societies are particularly designed?

Lord McIntosh of Haringey: My Lords, I assume that the noble Lord is referring to Section 9 of the 1997 Act which is due to come into force in October. Its effect will be to stop building societies having two-tier memberships, with some voting members and some who

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are simply investing members. Although that is clearly desirable, I am not certain that it will have all of the beneficial effects which the noble Lord is expecting. Indeed, some people in the building societies movement have been urging the Government to defer the implementation of Section 9.

Lord Sefton of Garston: My Lords, in view of the important part which the mutual societies play in democracy in our society, can the Minister give me an assurance that if the building societies come up with proposals which will more firmly place the control of those societies in the hands of long-term, genuine members, the Government will treat such proposals sympathetically in order to stop the parasites who are moving into building societies only for their own benefit?

Lord McIntosh of Haringey: My Lords, I am sympathetic to the thrust of my noble friend's question, as I have been, I think, to all similar questions. The problem is that all the specific proposals which the Building Societies Association has put to the Government for secondary legislation involve provisions such as raising the threshold for approval, delaying the qualifications for membership or increasing the number of nominations required for membership of the board, all of which involve a diminution of the principle of mutuality. Although the Government are, of course, reluctant to legislate for business management reasons, that is not the fundamental issue. We would like proposals from the building societies which will protect mutuality without reducing the rights of members.

Succession to the Crown Bill [H.L.]

11.33 a.m.

Lord Archer of Weston-Super-Mare: My Lords, I beg to introduce a Bill to remove any distinction between the sexes in determining the succession to the Crown. I beg to move that this Bill be now read a first time.

Moved, That the Bill be now read a first time.-- (Lord Archer of Weston-Super-Mare.)

On Question, Bill read a first time, and to be printed.

Parliamentary Privilege:

Joint Committee

The Lord Privy Seal (Lord Richard): My Lords, I beg to move the Motion standing in my name on the Order Paper.

Moved, That the Commons Message of yesterday be now considered and that a Select Committee of six Lords be appointed to join with the committee appointed

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by the Commons as the Joint Committee on Parliamentary Privilege to review parliamentary privilege and make recommendations thereon;

That, as proposed by the Committee of Selection, the Lords following be named of the committee:

L. Archer of Sandwell, L. Mayhew of Twysden, L. Merlyn-Rees, L. Nicholls of Birkenhead, L. Waddington, L. Wigoder;

That the committee have power to agree with the Commons in the appointment of a chairman;

That the committee have leave to report from time to time;

That the committee have power to appoint specialist advisers;

That the minutes of evidence taken before the committee from time to time shall, if the committee think fit, be printed and delivered out;

That the Attorney-General, the Lord Advocate, the Solicitor-General and the Solicitor-General for Scotland, being Members of either House, may attend the committee, may take part in deliberations, may receive committee papers and may give such other assistance to the committee as may be appropriate, but shall not vote or make any motion or move any amendment or be counted in the quorum.--(Lord Richard.)

Lord Marlesford: My Lords, I should like to ask the Lord Privy Seal one question. On the assumption that the only purpose of parliamentary privilege is to enable Parliament to do its job better and that that is its only justification, and given that there is, and there should be, considerable public interest in how Parliament performs, and that such interest should be encouraged, will it be possible for the evidence taken by the committee to be taken in public?

Lord Richard: My Lords, I do not know the answer to that question, but I hope that the committee will see fit to conduct at least a large part of its deliberations in as public a manner as it can. It should be done openly and transparently. I am afraid that I am not in a position today to be firm about the precise limitations on where one stops that process.

On Question, Motion agreed to; and it was ordered that a Message be sent to the Commons to acquaint them therewith.

Referendums (Scotland and Wales) Bill

11.35 a.m.

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Scottish Office (Lord Sewel): My Lords, I beg to move that the Commons reasons and amendments be now considered.

Moved, That the Commons reasons and amendments be now considered.--(Lord Sewel.)

On Question, Motion agreed to.

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[The page and line refer to Bill (8) as first printed for the Lords.]


Clause 1, page 1, line 5, leave out ("Her Majesty may by Order in Council") and insert ("the Secretary of State may by order")

The Commons disagreed to this amendment but proposed the following amendment in lieu--

Page 1, line 5, leave out ("such day as Her Majesty may by Order in Council appoint") and insert ("11th September 1997").

Lord Sewel: My Lords, I beg to move that the House do not insist on their Amendment No. 1 to which the Commons have disagreed, and do agree with the Commons in their Amendment No. 1A in lieu thereof.

In speaking to this amendment, I am speaking also to Amendments Nos. 5, 6, 7 and 10. The Government have stated their intention to hold the referendum in Scotland on 11th September, with the Welsh referendum a week later on 18th September. The Bill in its original form allowed the dates of the referendums to be appointed by Her Majesty in Orders in Council. We were pleased to accept the principle of the amendments tabled by the noble Lord, Lord Mackay of Ardbrecknish, to incorporate the Orders in Council into the main Bill. The Lords amendments would replace the original mechanism for setting the dates with a power for the Secretary of State to appoint the dates by order. These orders would have been used to set down the dates of 11th and 18th September. It makes sense now to write the dates into the Bill rather than to require an order to be made.

Some noble Lords may ask why we intend that the referendums should be on different dates, contrary to Amendment No. 7--

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