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Lord Hardie: My Lords, I apologise to the noble Baroness. I had not appreciated that that was the question. The Bill does not affect the position of honorary sheriffs. The sheriff principal would still be able to appoint honorary sheriffs if he or she considered it necessary.
I turn finally to the matters raised by the noble Lord, Lord Lester of Herne Hill. The first point concerns the position in the United Kingdom in relation to the judicial commission. I appreciate that the noble Lord is anxious that such a commission should be established to deal with appointments not only in Scotland but in other parts of the United Kingdom. I hope the noble Lord will forgive me if I say that that goes beyond the particular amendment and raises much wider considerations than those in the Scotland Bill.
As to Clause 92 and paragraph 1(d) of Schedule 6, the noble Lord is correct in interpreting those provisions as indicating that the European Convention on Human Rights will be incorporated and that the actions of the executive will be subject to scrutiny in terms of those articles. However, I do not share his interpretation insofar as concerns the appointment of a particular judge. If the appointment of a particular judge was considered overtly political I would find it difficult to envisage in the abstract how that matter could be raised in appropriate judicial proceedings. It is very tempting to agree with the noble Lord on the second point, and if I did he might be more sympathetic to my position. It is therefore very tempting. However, I have some reservations.
Lord Ackner: My Lords, before the noble and learned Lord sits down perhaps he will help me on one simple matter. He said it was unimaginable that the Lord Advocate would not be consulted. I do not understand why, if that is the case, it cannot be enshrined in the Bill, particularly since the noble and learned Lord said in terms that the Bill should contain fundamental points. Since it is unimaginable that in this case the contrary would occur this is one of the fundamental points, the more so since it cannot be said that by the addition of one name one is cluttering up a Bill with unnecessary provisos.
Lord Hardie: My Lords, I thought I had explained the reasons why it was unnecessary to incorporate that on the face of the Bill. I listed three reasons. If enshrined in the legislation it would mean that for all time the Lord Advocate was required to be consulted in the face of the possibility of the creation of a ministry of justice. If there were a minister of justice who was legally qualified and had equal knowledge of the senior members of the profession, he or she could perform the role of the Lord Advocate. But if the Scottish parliament wished to make a change of that nature and the Lord Advocate was mentioned on the face of this Bill, the
Lord Lester of Herne Hill: My Lords, I am most grateful to the noble and learned Lord for giving way. I believe he indicated, when the noble and learned Lord, Lord Ackner, intervened, that he regarded the Scottish administration as being under a duty to comply with the convention. It would very much help to have the matter clarified; it might make the whole amendment unnecessary. Is it recognised by the Government that the Scottish parliament, the Scottish administration, the Secretary of State and the judges themselves are all under an obligation to ensure the independence of the judiciary because of the incorporation through the Human Rights Bill and the Scotland Bill of Article 6 into our domestic legal system? If so, that would make me much more sympathetic to the Government's point of view. I understand his reservations about committing himself to questions of judicial review and legal standing, but it is the obligation in which I am interested. As a result of this legislation is it now a binding constitutional obligation to secure judicial independence in appointment, disciplining and removal?
Lord McCluskey: My Lords, I express grave disappointment at the answers I have heard today from the noble and learned Lord the Lord Advocate. Perhaps I may reiterate the point made by my noble and learned friend Lord Ackner. This is not a matter of detail but something that is fundamental to democracy: the independence of the judiciary. As my noble and learned friend Lord Hope said, appointments to the higher judiciary are of great importance in safeguarding democratic values. I was more than surprised and somewhat disappointed to hear the Lord Advocate suggest that this Parliament could, if the Scottish executive began to misbehave in this regard, take back the power and make different provisions about appointments. That is an astonishing answer and one that I am surprised the Lord Advocate should make on behalf of the Government at this stage of the Bill.
One important point of detail is that it is almost impossible to detect political influence in appointments. One may see individuals being appointed to the Bench and wonder why they have suddenly climbed the ladder by several rungs and why others have not been appointed but one cannot prove political favour. Therefore, it is impossible to make a case that the First Minister is exercising political favour even if everyone in the profession agrees that that is happening.
There is also the point that it does not have to be done for all time. The Government can table an amendment which would introduce but not entrench the provision that the noble and learned Lord the Lord Advocate should be consulted. They could give power in a subsection to the Scottish parliament to repeal the provision if experience showed that to be justified.
I am deeply disappointed by the answers. I shall refer later to the constant use of the word "unimaginable" by the noble and learned Lord the Lord Advocate. The Lord Advocate of 2nd November 1998 has no capacity to judge what will be imaginable or unimaginable post-devolution when an entirely different administration may be in office. Therefore, it is difficult for him to give those assurances to the House. I express my grave disappointment but I do not propose to divide the House. We are coming to what I regard as an even more important matter on which I intend to divide the House unless I receive a satisfactory answer.
Lord Hoyle: My Lords, before we move to the Statement on international finance, I should like to take this opportunity to remind the House that the Companion indicates that discussion on the Statement should be confined to comments and questions for clarification. Peers who speak at length do so at the expense of other noble Lords.
Lord McIntosh of Haringey: My Lords, with the leave of the House, I should now like to repeat a Statement on the world economy which has been made in another place by the Chancellor of the Exchequer. The Statement is as follows:
"But the financial crisis that swept Asia last year and reverberated around the world has revealed long-standing weaknesses in the international financial system which G7 Ministers agree must now be addressed as a matter of urgency.
"Our predecessors had to meet the challenge of ensuring economic stability in an era of national economies. Now our generation must meet the challenges of ensuring stability in the era of the global economy, where each individual economy can directly affect the prospects of every other.
"And the new way forward for this new era is sensible global financial regulation, credible crisis prevention, and orderly mechanisms for crisis resolution, with a sure foundation in minimum standards and best practice which all countries adopt to participate in the international financial system.
"And this is directly relevant to the UK economy. It is everybody's business, not only because we are dependent on trade in goods and services with other countries--for example, the Asian crisis has in one single year cut UK exports to Indonesia, Malaysia and South Korea by around 50 per cent. and to Thailand and the Philippines by around 60 per cent.--but also because--as we have seen--a weak financial system or inappropriate economic policies in one country not only put at risk another country's financial system, but will also threaten people's savings or investments and eventually their companies or jobs.
"Our Statement reaffirms that the balance of risks in the world economy has shifted from concerns about inflation to concerns about growth. In the last month interest rate policy has already been adjusted. In Japan, the United States, Canada, the United Kingdom, Spain, Portugal, Ireland, Denmark, Italy, and again in the United States. The G7 statement reaffirms our commitment to create or sustain the conditions for strong domestic-demand led growth and financial stability in each of our economies. The authorities will continue to be vigilant in the light of the shift in the balance of risks on a global basis.
"In our Statement each continent has agreed to make its contribution to creating the conditions for stability and growth--Japan with immediate banking reform, Europe with structural reforms to tackle unemployment, America to promote growth with low inflation and, in the case of Latin America, we welcome the policy commitments the Brazilian Government has made and we will work with the international community to support them. And all of us must act to avoid retreat into protectionism.
"For 50 years our policies for regulation, supervision, transparency and stability have been devised and developed for a world of relatively sheltered national economies with limited capital markets. Now that markets transcend national boundaries we must create for global markets systems for supervision, transparency, regulation and stability that are as sophisticated as the markets they have to work with.
"And G7 governments have therefore concluded that the international architecture devised in the 1940s for the economies of the 1940s is no longer adequate to the challenges of the 1990s and that we need new rules for the global financial system of the 21st century.
"So in the G7 statement each G7 country has now agreed to adopt and apply codes of conduct founded on minimum standards and best practice: new disciplines and undertakings that each country is prepared to accept as a condition of its participation in the international system.
"In monetary and financial policy we are agreed on the need for greater transparency and openness, that each country should specify its objectives for monetary policy, and identify responsibility for achieving these objectives and for reporting and explaining monetary and financial policy decision. And we are agreed that these standards should be set down in an internationally agreed code of conduct that all countries are prepared to accept.
"Similar standards of transparency are required in the private sector. By spring next year the QECD will complete work on a code of principles on sound corporate governance and structure. And by early 1999 we will also have in place a plan for internationally agreed accounting standards.
"These codes of conduct in monetary policy, fiscal policy and corporate governance will mean radical changes in the way governments and financial markets function. They will help produce an environment in which financial markets can operate better. They should reduce the risk of future failures, and mean that when failures do occur the financial system is robust enough to withstand them. By improving public understanding of why and how decisions are made, and making sure the right long-term policies are in place, the codes will help build public understanding and support for the policies that deliver economic growth and prosperity.
"Proper implementation of the codes of conduct should be a condition of IMF and World Bank support. Immediate action to promote transparency in policy making, financial sector reform and corporate governance should be key components in any reform programme which the IMF and World Bank agree in coming months.
"And there should be new undertakings on social policy too. An injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere and the G7 statement underlines the importance of policies that protect the most vulnerable, the real victims of financial crises, whose pain is very real indeed. That is why the G7 has agreed there should be general principles for good practice in social policy in all countries that will now be set down by the World Bank and serve as a guide to best practice.
"To this end, we will bring together the key international institutions and key national authorities involved in financial sector stability, better to co-operate and to co-ordinate their activities in the management and development of policies to foster stability and reduce systemic risk in the international financial system and to exchange information more systematically on risks in the international financial system.
"Dr. Tietmeyer, the President of the Bundesbank, has agreed to consult the relevant international bodies on these reforms and I would like to see an international memorandum of understanding, establishing a proper division of responsibility between regulators and international authorities at the international level.
"In the G7 statement we commit ourselves to strengthen the regulatory focus on risk management systems and prudential standards in financial sector institutions, in particular to examine the implications arising from the operations of leveraged international financial organisations, including hedge funds.
"In this area, a fundamental problem has been a lack of transparency and poor standards of disclosure on the part of some financial market participants. This important issue will be looked at by the Basle Committee in considering an international standard of best practice for transparency and disclosure. An agreed international standard of best practice would act as a benchmark, both for financial institutions and their regulators.
"The United Kingdom is clear that those financial institutions which deal with hedge funds must take into account all proper prudential standards and requirements of disclosure. Proper due diligence procedures are essential.
"Britain also believes that, as part of the general review of capital adequacy rules, the Basle Committee needs to examine the appropriate treatment of banks' exposures to hedge funds so there is proper recognition of the risks involved. And, as the Chairman of the Financial Services Authority, Howard Davies, has emphasised, managements of financial institutions have a responsibility to ensure that circumstances can never arise in which personal relationships with potential counterparts get in the way of appropriate due diligence. He said that there must be complete transparency in respect of senior managements' personal investments in counterpart firms to avoid any suspicion of conflicts of interest. I fully endorse these remarks.
"The statement from G7 Heads of Government said that they would examine not only the implications of the operation of highly leveraged operations of offshore institutions but also how they can encourage offshore centres to comply with internationally agreed standards. This is a particular issue for the UK because long-term capital management was registered in the Cayman Islands.
"This Government are committed to improving standards of regulation and regulatory co-operation in our overseas territories as well as to implementing the European, G7 and OECD initiatives to tackle unfair tax competition.
"So by international examination of these issues of concern--transparency in hedge funds, proper due diligence procedures, tackling potential conflicts of interest and dissemination of standards to offshore centres--governments can play their part in minimising the implications of future sudden and systemic disturbances.
"Finally, G7 Ministers are agreed on the need for a new procedure for crisis prevention, and tackling contagion. The central element would be an enhanced IMF supplementary reserve facility which would provide a contingent short-term line of credit for countries pursuing strong IMF approved policies. This facility could be drawn upon in times of need and would entail appropriate interest rates along with shorter maturities. The facility could be complemented, in individual cases, by bilateral contingent financing and the facility would be accompanied by appropriate private sector involvement.
"The G7 have also agreed that there also needs to be a better long-term mechanism for international authorities to work with the private sector and national authorities in handling debt problems, including debt rescheduling, at times of potential crisis. We are now asking, first, the private sector to adopt 'collective action clauses' to facilitate more orderly workout arrangements, and we will consider the use of such clauses in our own sovereign and quasi-sovereign bond issues. We are also asking the World Bank, in co-operation with the IMF to work with their members to put in place effective insolvency and debtor-creditor regimes, and, secondly, the IMF to consider lending into arrears, under carefully designed conditions and on a case by case basis.
"We want the private sector to build upon its experience with some emerging market countries in developing new market based contingent financing mechanisms. G7 governments will now support the more active use of loan guarantees to encourage greater private sector involvement in emerging market financing. Following the welcome United States Congress decision, we call for the IMF quota increase and the new arrangements to borrow to be implemented as soon as possible. Together they will provide additional IMF resources of 90 billion dollars to ensure the stability of the international financial system.
"Taken together, the reforms we have agreed--global financial regulation, codes of conduct, and mechanisms for crisis prevention and crisis resolution--represent the first step and now set the agenda for the most radical restructuring of the international financial architecture since its creation in the 1940s, making us better equipped to tackle the challenges of the 1990s and the century ahead. I commend this Statement to the House".
Lord Higgins: My Lords, the House will be grateful to the noble Lord the Minister for repeating that wide-ranging and extensive Statement. He will agree that to a large extent it represents an agenda for reform rather than reform itself. We shall need to keep closely in touch over the development of the various proposals. One must also consider the extent to which the United Kingdom is setting an example in some of the areas referred to by the Minister.
The key point, described as such in the G7 memorandum, is that the agreement reflects the shared determination of the UK and G7 to modernise financial systems and to put in place new rules and procedures. It states:
More particularly, one is bound to ask whether the terms of reference which the Government have imposed on the Bank of England, a point frequently made by the noble Lord, Lord Barnett, are appropriate against the statement that I have just made because the balance appears to have been shifted from inflation to growth. Although it is true, as the Minister said, that there have been recent reductions in interest rates, as regards the Bank of England, and more particularly the European Central Bank, one must ask whether the bias in their terms of reference is consistent with what has been set out by the Government.
No doubt we shall hear more tomorrow in the Chancellor's Statement, which has been so extensively leaked in the press today, about the rate of growth in the United Kingdom. No doubt we shall also hear that the reduction in the rate is due to the international situation and so forth. Can the Minister confirm that the latest Economist poll on the economic forecast suggests that the rate of growth in the United Kingdom in 1999 is likely to be less than half not only that of France and Germany but also Australia, which was more severely hit by the Asian crisis?
There is a certain amount of jargon in the Statement. I am glad that the Minister agrees with that and no doubt he can clarify a number of issues. I ask him about only one. It is said that there should be more ordinary work-out of debts and effective insolvency and debtor/creditor regimes. It goes on to say that lending into arrears by the IMF will be required. Can the Minister tell us what is meant by lending into arrears by the IMF, since it is a relatively new piece of jargon? It would be illuminating to know what it means.
It is debatable whether the Government have set an example of transparency, not least in regard to the controversy which has raged over the way in which the working family tax credit should be treated in our own accounts.
Finally, I shall concentrate on the real guts of the issue. We are told that there is to be an enhanced IMF supplementary reserve facility, accompanied by appropriate changes in agreements to borrow, et cetera. As far as the American contribution is concerned, is that simply paying up arrears or is it a new additional amount? Does the United Kingdom contribution appear in the comprehensive spending review? Is it a new initiative, or is it something we have already agreed to? Has there been any consideration of extending the system of SDRs, special drawing rights, which played an important part in earlier reforms as far as the bank and the fund were concerned?
We are told that the World Bank will have an emergency facility to deal with the problem of contagion, particularly to help countries which stick to IMF rules. I am not clear whether that is an attempt to stop contagion as far as the patient is concerned or as far as those who might be affected or infected are concerned. Will this new emergency facility help those who are already in trouble or those who are likely to be affected by other actions?
Lord Taverne: My Lords, the G7 statement is a worthy statement, although I am not absolutely sure how much it will be worth. It depends on whether the splendid principles of good practice will be applied. However, there are good features about recent developments, some of which are mentioned in the Statement, for example the 90 billion dollar increase in the IMF funds which is very welcome and may help to stop Brazil falling into a state of collapse. The recent prompt action by the Fed was extremely helpful. When we look back on these matters we may find that we owe a considerable amount to Mr. Greenspan. Next to avoiding severe recession in the United States, it is obviously of great importance that the growth of the European Union should be maintained. Does the
Lord McIntosh of Haringey: My Lords, I am grateful to both noble Lords for their response to the Statement. Oddly enough, I am more grateful on this occasion to the noble Lord, Lord Higgins than I am to the noble Lord, Lord Taverne. I suspect that the noble Lord, Lord Higgins, is right in saying that at this stage this is as much an agenda for reform as reform itself. It is clear that the agreement made by the G7 countries last Friday is a statement of intent and a description of what is going to be done rather than a report on work that has been completed. The whole process arises from meetings presaged by a speech of the Prime Minister at the end of September to the New York Stock Exchange subsequently fleshed out by speeches by the Chancellor to the annual meetings of the IMF and the World Bank and at G7 at the beginning of October. A series of agreements has been reached for short-term rescue and for medium and longer-term institutional changes. In that sense I am not afraid of the description of an agenda.
I am grateful to the noble Lord, Lord Higgins, for his recognition of the UK leadership. This is, after all, 1998 and our presidency of G7. We can justifiably say that the Prime Minister and the Chancellor made very good use of our presidency in order to move forward issues of global financial management. Whether or not he meant to pay tribute to the United Kingdom leadership of G7, I should like to do so, as one who is very much on the periphery of these matters.
I was interested, amused and encouraged to hear the noble Lord say that the shadow of Lord Keynes is hovering over this Chamber for the first time in a number of years. There have been occasions in the last few months when it was appropriate to refer to counter cyclical demand management policies, and I have done so. There may be other such occasions in the future. The noble Lord asked whether these issues give rise to questions about the terms of reference given to the Bank of England in its consideration of short-term interest rate policies. The terms of reference given to the Bank are fundamentally price stability and a given inflation rate; and that inflation rate has always been a minimum as well as a maximum inflation rate. To that extent our setting of inflation rate targets applies as much when the issue is growth as when the issue is inflation itself. I remind the noble Lord that the Bank of England Act
The noble Lord asked about current growth forecasts by economists. I may find an opportunity to answer that point on a more relevant occasion tomorrow when we will consider the UK economy in more detail.
The noble Lord asked about the gaps, the setting-up of the additional 90 billion dollars of IMF reserves. The United States payment is the result of a decision made by the United States Congress and is not a payment of arrears. The UK contribution, which is approximately five per cent. of the total either in the quota payments or in new arrangements for borrowing is not, as the noble Lord knows, public expenditure as such. It is a different way of using our reserves and therefore does not appear, as he suggested, in the comprehensive spending review. Insofar as those reserves are used by the IMF, they are compensated; interest is paid on them at the SDR rate. I do not know whether that entirely answers the question about SDRs.
The noble Lord made a very good point about the issue of contagion, which is referred to in the Statement. We are concerned both with those countries which are in trouble and those countries which are likely to be in trouble. To that extent, the width of the agenda put forward by the G7 Ministers and governors is evidence of the concern which we have on both those issues. The noble Lord asked about reporting on that programme of work. It will continue to be reported to Parliament as appropriate.
I am grateful to the noble Lord, Lord Taverne, for his recognition of the importance of the 90 billion dollars. He says that the health of the UK domestic economy is the best contribution we can make to international stability. I agree entirely. I hope that when the Chancellor makes his new budget report tomorrow, he will give the same general support to that as I think he has done today.
Lord Peston: My Lords, this Statement is of global significance. I can think of no Statement made in all my years in your Lordships' House which equals it in importance as regards the future of the world economy and world financial systems. It gives one hope that perhaps the normal self-destructive tendencies of the advanced industrialised world will not be allowed to go beyond anything which would imperil our future. Indeed, as regards the references to Lord Keynes, it is worth bearing in mind that Maynard Keynes was much more concerned about world international financial co-operation and the survival of the world than he was about quite minor matters such as contra-cyclical fiscal policy. Therefore, the shadow of Keynes certainly holds over this Statement but in a much deeper way than is sometimes recognised.
How do we get from statements of intent to the practicalities? There is reference to codes of practice, codes of conduct and transparency. But who will be responsible and who will be in a position to ask years from now: where are those codes of conduct? Subsequently, whose responsibility will it be to say whether people are operating according to those codes of conduct? Can my noble friend throw any light on that matter and, in particular, on the question of enforcement?
The Statement says that we do not need new institutions but new rules. Coming from the G7, the only comment that one can make is, "They would say that, wouldn't they?" However, will my noble friend bear in mind that a number of people who have thought deeply about these matters are convinced that we need some new institutions and not just some new rules from old institutions, those institutions, in one or two cases, having failed us. I hope that, without necessarily responding to that, my noble friend will bear in mind that it is a very important question.
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