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Baroness O'Cathain: My Lords, I support the comments made by the noble Lord, Lord Laird. Is there any way in which the Minister can bring pressure to bear so that Northern Ireland is not discriminated against in terms of disabled people's access to public transport? From my knowledge of the Province, I would say that there is probably a greater need in that part of the United Kingdom than there is in the rest of it.

Baroness Farrington of Ribbleton: My Lords, I accept the point made by the noble Baroness and repeat my earlier comment. The Government are presently considering the recommendation on the right of access and other recommendations which need primary legislation in order to go forward. The point is very well made.

Lord Randall of St Budeaux: My Lords, does my noble friend agree that if we are to reduce pollution and congestion in this country and in Northern Ireland as well, there has to be provision of personal services? A bus cannot provide that because it is bound by law to go on fixed routes at certain times. Does she further agree that the time has come to change the legislative structure in which public transport operates?

Baroness Farrington of Ribbleton: My Lords, my noble friend makes an important point, but I am at a disadvantage, not having detailed knowledge of public transport legislation. I cannot foresee a day when buses are not required to go on a predetermined route and stop in predetermined places. However, having made that point, I understand that the former Prime Minister, Mr Macmillan, is reputed to have assumed that it was possible to get a bus to go wherever one wanted to go. My noble friend raises an important point with regard to access to transport and the possibility of providing a variety of community services, including services such as Dial-a-Ride.

Social Inequalities

3.25 p.m.

Baroness Miller of Chilthorne Domer asked Her Majesty's Government:

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Department of Social Security (Baroness Hollis of Heigham): My Lords, the report to which the noble

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Baroness refers portrays the inequalities in income, health, education and work that this Government inherited.

Noble Lords: Oh!

Baroness Hollis of Heigham: Yes, my Lords, the report is based on statistics which go up to 1997-98, so by definition it is true that it analyses the problems which the Government inherited and are currently addressing. It will not surprise the noble Baroness that the inequality which concerns me most is the poverty, and therefore the inequality in life chances, of children.

Baroness Miller of Chilthorne Domer: My Lords, I thank the Minister for her reply. The Government are to be congratulated on producing such clear statistics, but are they not horrified that the report reveals that women earn on average 42 per cent less than men? That is totally unacceptable. The same report highlights the fact that girls achieve consistently better results at school and yet by the age of 20 they earn on average 10 per cent less than men. Does the Minister accept that this lower pay, combined with the fact that women take time out for childbirth and childcare, means that they may also face a poorer old age, with less good pensions? What are the Government going to do to root out this institutionalised sexism in pay? Are they thinking of reforming the Equal Pay Act?

Baroness Hollis of Heigham: My Lords, the noble Baroness has addressed a very important point and the House is right to be concerned about it. I think I am right in saying that her statistic that women's pay is 42 per cent behind that of men is in terms of total income through earnings coming in. That may not take full account of the fact that women's work is more part-time while men's is full-time and men do more overtime. My statistics show that in the 1970s women's pay was 60 per cent of men's and in terms of full-time equivalence it is now 81 per cent of men's. That 19 per cent gap, comparing like with like, is no more acceptable than the kind of statistics offered by the noble Baroness. She is entirely right.

The noble Baroness asked what the Government are doing. The biggest leap forward in women's equal pay came, as she mentioned, with the Equal Pay Act 1970. The next biggest leap forward has come with this Government's national minimum wage. Twelve per cent of all women now benefit from the national minimum wage compared with 4 per cent of men. If one adds to that not just the national minimum wage but the working families' tax credit, which effectively pays women on, say, £4.50 an hour a man's wage of £9, one sees a real improvement in women's income and, as the noble Baroness hoped, a real improvement in women's pensions in the years to come.

Lord Archer of Sandwell: My Lords, in the light of my noble friend's earlier Answer, does she agree that, of all the inequalities which trouble us, the most

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worrying are those relating to child poverty, because they are likely to be passed on from generation to generation?

Baroness Hollis of Heigham: My Lords, my noble and learned friend is absolutely right. We know that if children are born poor they go on to experience poorer health, they go on to experience more truancy and they go on to experience fewer opportunities of employment. They are born poor, they live poor and they die poor.

The best way we know of to break child poverty, thus springboarding such children into the prospect of living a decent life, is to ensure that one or other or both of their parents are in work. The source of poverty is lack of access to the labour market. That is precisely why on the one hand we are endeavouring to bring lone parents into the New Deal while on the other hand, through our reform of the Child Support Agency, we will ensure that their children enjoy the maintenance that they should receive. If we get parents into work and child maintenance payments flowing, we hope the result will be that those children will have a decent chance in life.

Baroness Gardner of Parkes: My Lords, the Minister has implied that the statistics quoted all relate to inherited circumstances. Why, then, have the Government still done nothing to address inequalities in health, in particular as regards the indices of deprivation in physical health as well as those for my own field, that of dentistry? Is it not the case that the Government have done nothing to reach children who simply cannot get any form of National Health Service treatment?

Baroness Hollis of Heigham: My Lords, as regards the second point made by the noble Baroness, my noble friend Lord Hunt has told me that we are working on the dental health strategy. In response to the noble Baroness's wider point, the Government's response to the Acheson report has been to state that local authorities must develop health improvement programmes. One of the primary functions of those programmes must be to address the real health inequalities reflected in cancer rates, strokes and the like. From the statistics that we inherited, we know that life expectancy at birth for a boy is around five years less in the two lowest social classes as compared to the two highest classes. If you are born poor, you will live for five years less. Those are the kinds of inequalities that my noble friend Lord Hunt and his team at the Department of Health are seeking to address. I am sure that we all wish them well in their task.

Psychotherapy Bill [H.L.]

Lord Alderdice: My Lords, I beg to introduce a Bill to establish a body to be known as the General Psychotherapy Council; to provide for the regulation of the profession of psychotherapy, including making

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provision as to the registration of psychotherapists and as to their professional education and conduct; to make provision in connection with the development and promotion of the profession; and for connected purposes. I beg to move that this Bill be now read a first time.

Moved, That the Bill be now read a first time.--(Lord Alderdice.)

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

Divorce (Religious Marriages) Bill [H.L.]

Lord Lester of Herne Hill: My Lords, I beg to introduce a Bill to make provision enabling a court to require the dissolution of a religious marriage before granting a civil divorce. I beg to move that this Bill be now read a first time.

Moved, That the Bill be now read a first time.--(Lord Lester of Herne Hill.)

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

Financial Services and Markets Bill

3.34 p.m.

Read a third time.

Clause 2 [The Authority's general duties]:

Lord Saatchi moved Amendment No. 1:

    Page 1, line 19, at end insert ("; and

(c) which does not unnecessarily impair the competitive position of the United Kingdom").

The noble Lord said: My Lords, in moving Amendment No. 1, perhaps I may speak also to Amendment No. 2. This Bill is a response to the trend towards consolidation in the financial services industry. Hence, nine regulators are to be merged into one. That is all well and good, but since the Bill arrived in your Lordships' House, a 10th regulator has been added--a German regulator. That is because there is a more powerful force behind the changes in this industry; namely, globalisation. The two amendments in this grouping reflect that aspect.

The first amendment has the modest objective of seeking to ensure that the new regulatory system under the FSA,

    "does not unnecessarily impair the competitive position of the United Kingdom".

It seeks no more than what is described in a letter to The Times this morning submitted by several noted practitioners in the financial services world. They have written to urge the Government to,

    "carefully weigh regulatory purity against competitive innovation, and to seek a balance between the two".

They go on to say that,

    "Not to do so would be to put at risk the UK's extraordinary achievement in financial services, an industry in which the UK has retained a disproportionate share of the global market".

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That lies at the root of our concerns and sets out the philosophy that, from the beginning, has guided our approach to this Bill.

The financial services industry is unique. It is Britain's largest industry. Without it, Britain would be in a state of balance of payments deficit permanently. That is why so much concern has been expressed about UK competitiveness and also reflects the second aspect of this group of amendments: the sudden appearance on the scene of a 10th regulator, the German regulator, as a result of the proposed merger of the London and Frankfurt stock exchanges.

The chairman of the proposed new merged exchange has said that this merger "has to happen". Perhaps I may quote his reasoning.

    "The London Stock Exchange could not go it alone".

Perhaps, but if one accepts that as a sad fact then, as happened on Report, a number of questions must be raised about the impact of that merger on this Bill.

As a consequence of amendments introduced by the Government in your Lordships' House, the FSA is now the responsible listing authority for the London Stock Exchange. But the result of the merger is that we shall have one exchange and two regulatory regimes. We are uneasy about that situation.

The Minister has conceded that the,

    "appropriate regulatory arrangements for the merged body are not clear".

The FSA has stated that it is,

    "working closely with our German supervisory colleagues to arrive at a sensible regulatory outcome for iX, the new exchange".

However, will the resulting system bear any resemblance to the Bill that Parliament has been considering over the past two years? The Government state that the outcome of those talks between the regulators is,

    "not a responsibility of the Government".

Who, then, will be responsible for the fair and equal regulation of Smith plc and Schmidt gmbh--two companies in the same sector quoted in Frankfurt, in euros? How will the Government ensure that a level playing field of regulation is in place for all the participants in the merged exchange? Who will address the concerns of the Treasury Select Committee in another place about regulatory arbitrage; that is, companies listing in one place or another to gain a competitive advantage? Who will answer Mr Arthur Levitt, chairman of the American Securities and Exchange Commission, who has asked:

    "How they are going to apply, and the likelihood of, a common listing and common governance structure?"?

In a few moments I am sure the Minister will say that all these concerns are groundless and that the Government considered all this carefully when drafting the Bill. However, if that is the case, how odd it has been to hear the chairman of the Stock Exchange yesterday in his submission to the Select Committee of another place, where he stated:

    "No representations had been made to the London Stock Exchange about this merger from the Treasury; none from the Bank of England and none even from the Financial Services Authority itself".

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We have the uneasy feeling that this merger is shifting the ground underneath our feet and is in danger of making obsolete all of the epic two years' worth of parliamentary scrutiny of this Bill.

For those reasons, Amendment No. 2 is intended to address these growing concerns and to give the Government a chance further to reflect on them. First, the amendment states that the merged exchange must be "regulated to common standards" in both countries. That principle should apply both to the exchange itself and to those who are members of the exchange. Secondly, the amendment states that the treatment of market abuse, in particular the nature of the prohibition and the deterrent intended to prevent it, must be the same in both countries. Noble Lords will be well aware that both of these issues are highly relevant to the FSA's market confidence objective and so we have tabled our amendment under that heading.

If, having completed its review of the regulatory implications of the merger, the FSA does conclude that there are substantial differences in approach to market regulation and market abuse in Germany--which I have been assured is certainly the case--then this amendment would confirm that the FSA would be charged with the task of ensuring, so far as is practicable (we realise that the obligation cannot be unqualified) that a regulatory level playing field, both in relation to the operation of the market and to market abuse, is in place.

We should recognise the globalisation of markets in the Bill and reflect that in the objectives of the FSA. I beg to move.

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