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Lord Kingsland moved Amendment No. 18:

("( ) Before making any appointments to the Authority, the Secretary of State shall seek and take account of the opinion of the Trade and Industry Select Committee of the House of Commons.").

The noble Lord said: My Lords, this amendment requires the Secretary of State to seek and take account of the opinion of the Trade and Industry Select Committee in another place before appointing the chairman or other members of the gas and electricity markets authority.

An amendment moved in Committee which would have required formal confirmation of such appointments by the Select Committee was rejected by the Government. But the Minister commented that,

    "perhaps at some time in the future--if, for example, I can persuade my party to put the matter into a manifesto--it may be desirable for there to be confirmatory hearings".--[Official Report, 13/6/00; col. 1532.]

The amendment would require consultation rather than confirmation, and therefore provides a compromise solution which would go a long way to fulfilling the Minister's ambitions. I beg to move.

Lord Borrie: My Lords, the Trade and Industry Select Committee of another place will have a most important role in scrutinising and checking the work of the new gas and electricity markets authority, just as it has an important role in checking the work of other governmental bodies and executive bodies of very different kinds but within the general area of trade and industry. I think it is important that the job should be done by a body which is completely independent of the gas and electricity markets authority. If the legislature is to be a proper check on the executive, it is important that it should not have a hand in the appointment of the people who are to constitute an executive body.

If the Select Committee has a role in choosing members of the gas and electricity markets authority, and if the choices favoured by it are approved by the Government, possibly it would be a little less than robust in the work that it did. If, on the other hand, the Trade and Industry Select Committee was looking into

11 Jul 2000 : Column 162

the work of a body whose members it did not suggest, or indeed did not believe to be appropriate, the attitude might be one of determined opposition and it might be so robust as to be unreasonable.

That may sound a little exaggerated but, if it is, it is only to make my point that I am not sure that the same body which is to do the checking of the executive should have a hand, albeit a consultative hand, in the choice of members of that executive body. I believe that there may be a case--and this needs to be argued over a broad field and not just in connection with this particular authority--for Parliament, through a Select Committee, to have some kind of consultative role in the appointment of members of governmental and public bodies. However, I very much doubt whether the same Select Committee should have a role in the choice of members of an executive or public authority and also be an effective check on that authority's work. I think that a much broader parliamentary role for public appointments needs a much broader study than we can give on this occasion. Indeed the same argument would have applied to earlier discussions of the Bill. Confining ourselves, as we must under this Bill, to one particular authority, that would be an interesting innovation and one well worth debating, but it would not be an appropriate innovation to introduce in respect of this Bill, and certainly not at this stage.

Lord McIntosh of Haringey: My Lords, the noble Lord, Lord Kingsland, seems to think that this amendment is a compromise on the amendment which he moved at an earlier stage, which was in effect a confirmatory amendment. Of course it is not really a compromise, because it requires the Secretary of State not just to seek the opinion of the Trade and Industry Select Committee before appointing members of the new authority but to take account of their views. That immediately puts us into the dilemma described by the noble Lord, Lord Borrie.

Speaking, if I may, as a human being and as a rank-and-file member of the Labour Party, I think the whole issue of the relationship between Select Committees in another place and public bodies would deserve broader discussion. That is why I would hope to persuade my party that this might be included in a future manifesto. It may well be, although I have not discussed this with my colleague Ministers, that many people hold a view which is strongly opposed to that. But whatever view they may have, the issue of whether you start to involve Select Committees of the House of Commons in whatever way--whether by way of having their views taken account of or by needing formal consultation--would be a complete innovation in our constitution. It certainly would deserve a great deal more public discussion than we can achieve in the House of Lords examining the Utilities Bill at Third Reading.

There was some confusion at an earlier stage about the position of the Monetary Policy Committee of the Bank of England and it was suggested that there was something comparable to confirmatory hearings by the Treasury Select Committee. Of course the

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Treasury Select Committee can call members of the Monetary Policy Committee to appear before it and it has the right to pass any judgment it sees fit. However, it does not have a statutory role in regard to appointments. As was made clear in respect of a recent appointment, that decision lies entirely with the Chancellor of the Exchequer. I suggest that this is not the place for constitutional innovation. I know that the noble Lord, Lord Kingsland, would like to make a name for himself as a great constitutional innovator, but I think he might find a better occasion to do it.

Lord Kingsland: My Lords, I do not know what gave the noble Lord the Minister the idea that I want to make a name for myself in any sphere of political activity, let alone the constitution.

I must say that I am disappointed by the reaction of the noble Lord and indeed that of the noble Lord, Lord Borrie. In my submission, the innovation by the Government in introducing a power for the Treasury Committee to interview members of the Monetary Policy Committee of the Bank of England was a wholly admirable one. Indeed, I would not have thought that the Government would have introduced it unless they thought it was admirable.

I understand that the Government, in general terms, support the strengthening of Parliament in relation to the executive. Here we are not even talking about the executive as Ministers but about the executive as members of regulatory authorities. Surely it is desirable for parliamentary committees to examine the policies of members of regulatory committees before they take office and to ask what targets they seek to reach so that, if they fail to meet them, they can be taken to task. That is what the role of parliamentary committees is supposed to be.

Certainly many other countries, notably the United States of America, are far ahead of us in this respect. Indeed, such is my disappointment with the reaction of the noble Lord the Minister that I wish to test the opinion of the House on this matter.

4.57 p.m.

On Question, Whether the said amendment (No. 18) shall be agreed to?

Their Lordships divided: Contents, 106; Not-Contents, 184.

Division No. 2


Alton of Liverpool, L.
Anelay of St Johns, B.
Astor of Hever, L.
Attlee, E.
Beaumont of Whitley, L.
Biffen, L.
Blaker, L.
Blatch, B.
Boardman, L.
Bridgeman, V.
Brougham and Vaux, L.
Burnham, L. [Teller]
Buscombe, B.
Byford, B.
Caithness, E.
Campbell of Alloway, L.
Carnegy of Lour, B.
Chadlington, L.
Coe, L.
Colwyn, L.
Cope of Berkeley, L.
Courtown, E.
Cranborne, V.
Crathorne, L.
Dacre of Glanton, L.
Dean of Harptree, L.
Denham, L.
Dixon-Smith, L.
Eden of Winton, L.
Elles, B.
Elliott of Morpeth, L.
Elton, L.
Ferrers, E.
Flather, B.
Fookes, B.
Forsyth of Drumlean, L.
Gardner of Parkes, B.
Garel-Jones, L.
Geddes, L.
Glentoran, L.
Goschen, V.
Gray of Contin, L.
Hayhoe, L.
Henley, L. [Teller]
Higgins, L.
Hogg, B.
Howell of Guildford, L.
Jenkin of Roding, L.
Jopling, L.
Kelvedon, L.
Kingsland, L.
Knight of Collingtree, B.
Lamont of Lerwick, L.
Lang of Monkton, L.
Liverpool, E.
Luke, L.
Lyell, L.
McColl of Dulwich, L.
McConnell, L.
Macfarlane of Bearsden, L.
Mackay of Ardbrecknish, L.
Marlesford, L.
Masham of Ilton, B.
Miller of Hendon, B.
Montrose, D.
Mowbray and Stourton, L.
Moynihan, L.
Murton of Lindisfarne, L.
Northbrook, L.
Northesk, E.
O'Cathain, B.
Onslow, E.
Oppenheim-Barnes, B.
Oxfuird, V.
Palmer, L.
Peel, E.
Peyton of Yeovil, L.
Platt of Writtle, B.
Plumb, L.
Rawlings, B.
Renfrew of Kaimsthorn, L.
Renton, L.
Renton of Mount Harry, L.
Roberts of Conwy, L.
Rotherwick, L.
Saltoun of Abernethy, Ly.
Sanderson of Bowden, L.
Seccombe, B.
Selborne, E.
Selsdon, L.
Sharples, B.
Shaw of Northstead, L.
Skelmersdale, L.
Stevens of Ludgate, L.
Stewartby, L.
Stodart of Leaston, L.
Strathclyde, L.
Thomas of Gwydir, L.
Trefgarne, L.
Trumpington, B.
Vivian, L.
Waddington, L.
Wade of Chorlton, L.
Warnock, B.
Willoughby de Broke, L.
Young, B.


Acton, L.
Addington, L.
Ahmed, L.
Allenby of Megiddo, V.
Amos, B.
Ampthill, L.
Andrews, B.
Archer of Sandwell, L.
Ashley of Stoke, L.
Ashton of Upholland, B.
Bach, L.
Barker, B.
Barnett, L.
Bassam of Brighton, L.
Berkeley, L.
Bernstein of Craigweil, L.
Billingham, B.
Blackstone, B.
Blease, L.
Borrie, L.
Bradshaw, L.
Bragg, L.
Brett, L.
Brooke of Alverthorpe, L.
Brookman, L.
Brooks of Tremorfa, L.
Burlison, L.
Carter, L. [Teller]
Christopher, L.
Clarke of Hampstead, L.
Clement-Jones, L.
Clinton-Davis, L.
Cocks of Hartcliffe, L.
Crawley, B.
Currie of Marylebone, L.
David, B.
Davies of Coity, L.
Davies of Oldham, L.
Dean of Thornton-le-Fylde, B.
Desai, L.
Diamond, L.
Dixon, L.
Donoughue, L.
Dormand of Easington, L.
Dubs, L.
Elder, L.
Evans of Parkside, L.
Evans of Temple Guiting, L.
Evans of Watford, L.
Ewing of Kirkford, L.
Ezra, L.
Falconer of Thoroton, L.
Falkland, V.
Farrington of Ribbleton, B.
Faulkner of Worcester, L.
Filkin, L.
Fyfe of Fairfield, L.
Gale, B.
Geraint, L.
Gibson of Market Rasen, B.
Gilbert, L.
Gladwin of Clee, L.
Goodhart, L.
Goudie, B.
Gould of Potternewton, B.
Grabiner, L.
Graham of Edmonton, L.
Gregson, L.
Grenfell, L.
Hardy of Wath, L.
Harris of Greenwich, L.
Harris of Haringey, L.
Harrison, L.
Haskel, L.
Haskins, L.
Hayman, B.
Healey, L.
Hilton of Eggardon, B.
Hogg of Cumbernauld, L.
Hollick, L.
Hollis of Heigham, B.
Holme of Cheltenham, L.
Howells of St. Davids, B.
Howie of Troon, L.
Hoyle, L.
Hughes of Woodside, L.
Hunt of Chesterton, L.
Hunt of Kings Heath, L.
Irvine of Lairg, L. (Lord Chancellor)
Islwyn, L.
Janner of Braunstone, L.
Jay of Paddington, B. (Lord Privy Seal)
Jeger, B.
Jenkins of Putney, L.
Judd, L.
King of West Bromwich, L.
Kirkhill, L.
Laird, L.
Layard, L.
Lea of Crondall, L.
Lipsey, L.
Lofthouse of Pontefract, L.
Lovell-Davis, L.
McCarthy, L.
Macdonald of Tradeston, L.
McIntosh of Haringey, L. [Teller]
McIntosh of Hudnall, B.
MacKenzie of Culkein, L.
Mackenzie of Framwellgate, L.
Maddock, B.
Marsh, L.
Mason of Barnsley, L.
Massey of Darwen, B.
Merlyn-Rees, L.
Molloy, L.
Morris of Castle Morris, L.
Morris of Manchester, L.
Murray of Epping Forest, L.
Newby, L.
Nicol, B.
Northover, B.
Oakeshott of Seagrove Bay, L.
Parekh, L.
Patel of Blackburn, L.
Paul, L.
Peston, L.
Phillips of Sudbury, L.
Pitkeathley, B.
Plant of Highfield, L.
Ponsonby of Shulbrede, L.
Prys-Davies, L.
Ramsay of Cartvale, B.
Randall of St. Budeaux, L.
Razzall, L.
Rea, L.
Redesdale, L.
Rendell of Babergh, B.
Richard, L.
Rodgers of Quarry Bank, L.
Rogers of Riverside, L.
Roll of Ipsden, L.
Russell, E.
Sainsbury of Turville, L.
Sawyer, L.
Scotland of Asthal, B.
Serota, B.
Sewel, L.
Sharman, L.
Sharp of Guildford, B.
Shepherd, L.
Shutt of Greetland, L.
Simon, V.
Smith of Clifton, L.
Smith of Gilmorehill, B.
Smith of Leigh, L.
Strabolgi, L.
Symons of Vernham Dean, B.
Taverne, L.
Taylor of Blackburn, L.
Taylor of Gryfe, L.
Thomas of Gresford, L.
Thomas of Walliswood, B.
Thomson of Monifieth, L.
Thornton, B.
Tomlinson, L.
Tordoff, L.
Uddin, B.
Varley, L.
Walker of Doncaster, L.
Wallace of Saltaire, L.
Walmsley, B.
Warner, L.
Warwick of Undercliffe, B.
Watson of Invergowrie, L.
Watson of Richmond, L.
Weatherill, L.
Wedderburn of Charlton, L.
Whitty, L.
Wilkins, B.
Williams of Crosby, B.
Williams of Elvel, L.
Williams of Mostyn, L.
Williamson of Horton, L.
Woolmer of Leeds, L.

Resolved in the negative, and amendment disagreed to accordingly.

11 Jul 2000 : Column 165

5.7 p.m.

Schedule 2 [The Gas and Electricity Consumer Council]:

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