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Lord Geddes: My Lords, will the Minister advise what representations have been made to Her Majesty's Government from airlines using Stansted airport, Stansted being--these are my words--the designated hijack airport of the United Kingdom? Are the Government considering the use of any other airport,
Lord Bassam of Brighton: My Lords, obviously when major incidents of that kind take place there will be discussions with governments, particularly within the European Union. We shall continue those discussions. The noble Lord makes a valuable point and the matter will no doubt be considered.
I have in the past drawn attention to what I regard as extravagances--among others, the resurfacing of the car park at the front of the building at a cost of £2.5 million when no one can see anything wrong with it. We are in a position where we are committed to expenditure without ever going back to look at it to see whether there are not some compensatory savings in the great changes which are to take place in the way in which the House operates.
I ask the Chairman of Committees to consider the matter extremely seriously. We know what happens to such reports: once this report is approved, as it will be today, in future when a noble Lord challenges any aspect of it he will be told that the House has already approved it. The implications of more expenditure should be faced up to and we should be looking for compensatory savings elsewhere; otherwise, we shall be told, "You say that you have made yourselves more democratic, more legitimate and so forth, but look at the cost of it". There will be people in tabloid papers and so on who would like to make a great meal of that point.
Lord Barnett: My Lords, I welcome paragraph 6 of the report, where the House authorities--if I may put it that way--have accepted and recommended that the Select Committee on the Bank of England should be set up again. Perhaps I may first ask the Chairman of Committees why it has taken until now to do it, when it was quite clear that all sides of your Lordships' House, as long ago as November, had agreed that that should be done?
Secondly, and perhaps more importantly, I am concerned about the implications referred to in paragraph 8, which I believe are more serious than the points raised by my noble friend. The committee seems to have the matter the wrong way round. It is important for your Lordships to decide which Select Committees are required and then to decide the necessary resources. One should bear in mind that the House spends far less than another place on important matters, such as Select Committees. That is the way that it should be done.
When the general review referred to in paragraph 9 is considered on the basis of a report by the Clerk of the Parliaments, I ask the Chairman of Committees to ensure that the Clerk be clearly instructed that his report should be purely factual. I also ask that your Lordships' House decide which Select Committees are required in future on the basis of a report from the committee, and then decide on and find the resources available.
Lord Jenkin of Roding: My Lords, I share the pleasure of the noble Lord, Lord Barnett, about paragraph 6 of the report, but only on the basis that half a loaf is, I suppose, better than a full one. I am sorry: a full loaf would be better than a half. This concerns one of the Government's major changes of policy. It is now common ground between all parties that the Monetary Policy Committee is the body that will determine the control of interest rates in the country. This is a long-term institutional change which will need to be kept under regular scrutiny.
It has been said before--indeed, the noble Baroness the Leader of the House acknowledged it when I raised the point on a previous occasion--that there is a great deal of expertise in your Lordships' House on the matters which fall within the purview of the Monetary Policy Committee. I find it astonishing that even now the Liaison Committee cannot see its way to establishing the Select Committee as a permanent part of the machinery of the House. Can the Chairman of Committees say whether this is just pending the consideration of the matters referred to in paragraphs 7 and 8, or are we going to have, as it were, a curious procedure whereby the Select Committee on the Monetary Policy Committee will be reappointed every year as a one-off? I would regard that as a very unsatisfactory way of approaching what is an important function of the House.
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