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Lord Strathclyde: My Lords, I am grateful to the Leader of the House for her statement. I congratulate her on taking a personal interest in developments. As she correctly pointed out, this is the second time in a month that this has happened. We have a personal interest: yesterday afternoon we might well have won the Division had the streets not been blocked.

One disappointing side of the noble Baroness's statement was that it did not contain concrete proposals or positive suggestions. I wonder whether the noble Baroness might give us some idea of what she has in mind.

Has the noble Baroness given any thought to the response that might be made by the Commissioner of Police? Can she tell the House that, were the Commissioner to ask for extra resources to carry out his duties, the Government would not seek to block any such proposal? Would that be a decision for this House--a sovereign House of Parliament--or would it be one for the Treasury?

Having raised this matter, we on this side of the House, indeed the whole House, will wish to hear regular progress reports. In that light, can the Minister say anything further about the events that took place on 22nd May?

Can we also be clear that nothing should be done to block the entirely legitimate rights of individuals to demonstrate and to lobby their representatives in Parliament? The difference between 22nd May and yesterday was that the event on 22nd May involved the problem affecting the people of Ethiopia. If there are, sadly, any future disturbances I hope that the noble Baroness the Leader of the House will come to the House to make a Statement to explain the circumstances.

Finally, can the noble Baroness explain why her Government have so recently passed control of Parliament Square to Ken Livingstone?

Lord Rodgers of Quarry Bank: My Lords, I, too, thank the noble Baroness the Leader of the House for making the Statement so promptly today. If Black Rod wrote to the Commissioner of the Metropolitan Police three weeks ago, it is a little disturbing that we have not yet heard the outcome of his inquiry. I am somewhat confused--I acknowledge that the fault may be mine--that on this occasion Black Rod wrote to the head of security in the Palace of Westminster. What is the line of authority in these matters and who should be speaking to the Commissioner of the Metropolitan Police and receiving an early reply? Can we have confirmation when the reply on both events is available? I understand that the noble Baroness has in mind then to make a Statement to the House which will satisfactorily tie up the matter.

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No one argues about the right to demonstrate. What is at issue is the right of Parliament to proceed with its work unimpeded.

Baroness Jay of Paddington: My Lords, I agree with the final sentiment of the noble Lord, Lord Rodgers. That is entirely the point. Both he and the noble Lord, Lord Strathclyde, raised some questions which were designed to elicit information and others to make separate points.

On questions of information, I shall be happy to explain to the noble Lord, Lord Strathclyde, the precise terms of correspondence between Black Rod and the various people involved in the line of authority. As I said in the Statement--perhaps I mis-spoke; the noble Lord, Lord Rodgers was not clear--I understand that communications between Black Rod and the Commissioner of the Metropolitan Police are made through the head of security in the Palace of Westminster. It is indeed right that the earlier query has not been substantively reported on or replied to. I shall ensure that that is followed up.

Insolvency Bill [H.L.]

3.12 p.m.

Lord McIntosh of Haringey: My Lords, I beg to move the Motion standing in my name on the Order Paper.

Moved, That it be an instruction to the Grand Committee to whom the Insolvency Bill [H.L.] has been committed that they consider the Bill in the following order:

Clause 1, Schedule 1, Clause 2, Schedule 2, Clause 3, Schedule 3, Clauses 4 to 8, Schedule 4, Clauses 9 to 17, Schedule 5.--(Lord McIntosh of Haringey.)

Lord Tebbit: My Lords, I hesitate to raise the issue in such erudite company but should not the Motion refer to the Grand Committee "to which" the Insolvency Bill has been committed rather than "to whom"?

Lord McIntosh of Haringey: My Lords, perhaps I may give a conservative answer to the noble Lord. It always has been phrased in that way. I think that the authorities of the House may well wish to look into the matter.

On Question, Motion agreed to.

Railtrack (Waverley Station) Order Confirmation Bill

Baroness Ramsay of Cartvale: My Lords, I beg to move that this Bill be now read a third time.

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Moved, That the Bill be now read a third time.--(Baroness Ramsay of Cartvale.)

Lord Mackay of Ardbrecknish: My Lords, perhaps I may intervene briefly not so much on the detail of the Bill but on the fact that it is before the House at all

Planning has been devolved by your Lordships and Parliament to the Scottish Parliament and to the Scottish Executive. This Bill is entirely about the planning of Waverley Station in Edinburgh. If we have devolved planning to the Scottish Parliament, the Scottish Parliament should be dealing with such issues. If the Minister tells me that it is perfectly in order for this House to deal with this planning matter, I shall raise questions about the planning matter relating to the Scottish Parliament building and the inflating of the costs therein.

The Government cannot have it both ways. They have either devolved these planning matters to the Scottish Parliament or they have retained them. I should be deeply grateful for some explanation as to why this matter--it appears to be entirely to do with planning--is not one now for the competence of the Scottish Parliament.

The Duke of Montrose: My Lords, perhaps I may ask for the forbearance of the House as regards my curiosity. In paragraph 12 of the schedule the feudal title of this land is to be vested in the company. As the Scottish Parliament is about to abolish all feudal titles, what is the purpose of vesting this title in the company?

Baroness Ramsay of Cartvale: My Lords, perhaps I can enlighten noble Lords opposite. First, this measure goes forward under the Private Legislation Procedure (Scotland) Act 1936. No comparable procedures are available to the Scottish Parliament. It has no procedures available to pass private legislation. That is the answer to the noble Lord, Lord Mackay of Ardbrecknish. Private legislation is not devolved to the Scottish Parliament.

Lord Mackay of Ardbrecknish: My Lords, I am grateful to the noble Baroness for allowing me to intervene. I understand the answer. Was that a mistake by the Government when they took the Bill through? Should it have been devolved to the Scottish Parliament?

Baroness Ramsay of Cartvale: My Lords, no, it was certainly not a mistake. I do not remember the noble Lord, Lord Mackay of Ardbrecknish, moving an amendment seeking to put it into the Scotland Bill.

On Question, Bill read a third time, and passed.

Utilities Bill

3.16 p.m.

Lord McIntosh of Haringey: My Lords, I beg to move that the House do now resolve itself into Committee on this Bill.

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Moved, That the House do now resolve itself into Committee.--(Lord McIntosh of Haringey.)

On Question, Motion agreed to.

House in Committee accordingly.


Clause 1 agreed to.

Schedule 1 [The Gas and Electricity Markets Authority]:

Baroness Buscombe moved Amendment No. 1:

    Page 110, line 5, after ("two") insert ("and no more than five").

The noble Baroness said: In moving this amendment, I speak also to Amendments Nos. 2 to 7 and 14.

The gas and electricity industries have made enormous progress since privatisation both in terms of quality of service and price in a free market environment and for the benefit of the consumer. In establishing the new authority it must be of paramount importance to ensure that this progress is not compromised by the regulatory regime becoming too unwieldy, which would simply result in greater cost--cost that would eventually be passed on to the consumer.

Hitherto there have been two regulators: one for electricity and one for gas. Now, as a combined authority, how many more do we need? The Government have recognised that three is the ideal number of appointments to the board, having stated in their response to the consultation on the utilities Green Paper:

    "The Government has concluded, in light of detailed consideration of responses, that small executive boards of 3 full time members should provide the most effective regulatory model for all the sectors covered in the Green Paper".

That was before half the Bill was dropped when there were four sectors. They continue:

    "This model offers the advantages of collective but streamlined decision making by a small cadre of high calibre, professional regulators; greater accountability; scope for greater continuity and consistency when new regulators are appointed; and an ability to spread the regulatory burden. This is particularly important in energy and telecommunications, given the increasing complexity of these sectors".

The Government have also stated in the regulatory, environmental and equal treatment appraisals of utility reforms that there will be higher costs to the regulator as a result of the Bill. Moreover, in A Fair Deal for Consumers--Modernising the Framework for Utility Regulation published by the DTI, the Government say that,

    "to the extent that additional costs are incurred, these will be passed on to the licensees and ultimately borne by the consumers".

That is a theme to which we on these Benches shall keep returning, for which we make no apology.

We have proposed a limit of five on the number of authority members. We have also tabled amendments to ensure that the new regulatory structure is fully accountable, particularly in relation to scrutiny by the Select Committee on Trade and Industry of the House

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of Commons. We firmly believe that the appointment to the authority of both the chairman and members should be referred to that committee in advance as a matter of due diligence. A similar procedure already exists for appointments to the Monetary Policy Committee of the Bank of England whereby individuals submit themselves to scrutiny by the Treasury Committee prior to appointment.

When a similar amendment was tabled in the other place the Minister, Mrs Liddell, said that it would,

    "weaken the power of the Trade and Industry Committee as an effective [scrutineer] of the regulatory process, as it would have been implicated in the appointment of those who serve in the regulatory authority".

We seek to mirror what already happens to the membership of the Monetary Policy Committee. All the members of that committee appear before the Treasury Committee before or shortly after appointment to answer detailed questions about their views and experience. The Treasury Committee will subsequently take evidence on the performance of the Monetary Policy Committee to see how it is delivering vis a vis the economy. It does not feel "implicated" or compromised by that procedure; indeed, it is the kind of scrutiny that would take place as a matter of course in any similar body in a commercial organisation. We contend, therefore, that the arguments rehearsed in another place against what we believe to be a sensible, transparent approach are spurious.

In addition to due diligence in regard to appointments, we propose in Amendment No. 4 that the degree of responsibility incumbent on members of the authority should be recognised on the face of the Bill by the inclusion of criteria, to be published by the Secretary of State prior to the coming into force of the Bill, about the skills and calibre of those appointed to the authority. We want to see a transparent, professional approach to appointments. Therefore, we seek an assurance that the calibre of members is such that they have the degree of experience, expertise and commitment to carry out their duties effectively. I have already referred to the Government's response to consultation on the Green Paper that there is a need for high calibre professional regulators. We now spell that out in these amendments.

In relation to the Monetary Policy Committee of the Bank of England, it should be noted that there is an obligation on the Minister to ensure that members have the appropriate skills and experience. As to the council, while we propose in Amendment No. 5 that the appointment of the chairman should be scrutinised by the Select Committee on Trade and Industry of the House of Commons, we do not believe that such a test should be applied to members of that body. We consider that it is sufficient to scrutinise the chairman as he is the driving force behind the council.

In tabling these amendments--I turn now to Amendment No. 6--we are mindful of the practical financial consequences of the Bill as currently drafted. We take into account, first, the costs associated with increased regulation; secondly, the threat of unlimited fines; and, thirdly, the unspoken parameters of implementing social and environmental policy. I

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articulate but a few examples of the cost implications which result in a significant and, frankly, depressing increase in cost, which in turn will significantly increase the capital cost to the utilities industries. In the circumstances it is appropriate to ensure that the Treasury is fully aware of the number of appointments, and terms and conditions of service, of staff to the authority.

Finally, in proposing in Amendment No. 14 that any notice issued by the council or the authority with regard to appointments should be sent to the Select Committee on Trade and Industry of the House of Commons and the Secretary of State we seek consistency in regard to consultation and proper communication. I beg to move.

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