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Lord Marsh: Perhaps I may comment. I am not relying on the fact that I did not have a friend at that time--I have got some now. I genuinely do not believe that any member of the public can reasonably assume that a Member of this Chamber will behave dishonestly purely on the basis that he has a friend who might benefit. That is one of the reasons I am relatively relaxed.
Lord Williams of Mostyn: It may well be that no member of the public could reasonably believe that any Member of your Lordship's Chamber would behave on the basis of self-interest or the interest of a spouse. But that is not the point. The question is: how do we deal with the circumstances that face us? Virtually everyone who has spoken agrees on the necessity--it may be a disagreeable one--for a code. Even the late repenter, the noble Lord, Lord Strathclyde, has now seen the light.
We are living in a changed world. The noble Baroness, Lady Williams of Crosby, is quite right: this Chamber is enormously influential. Members of this place are influential not simply in voting or in debate, but also in conversation in a House which, by and large, is an amicable place; in public speeches on public platforms; and in writing letters to newspapers. Every one of us has the possible influence and advantage of membership of this place when we make public announcements.
I dealt with the point in relation to privacy and shall touch on it only briefly. It was well made by a number of speakers. Either my noble friend Lord Shore or the noble Lord, Lord Marsh--forgive me for not remembering exactly--said that it was capable of poisoning relationships. That point was well made and I undertake to take it on board and deal with it.
Lord Elton: How will the Minister deal with it? We have the machinery before us to deal with it. My noble friend's amendment provides that machinery and the Minister's does not. How will the Minister remedy that when the car has rolled off the production line?
Lord Williams of Mostyn: The noble Lord, Lord Elton, knows quite well that the amendment of the noble Lord, Lord Kingsland, does not simply deal with privacy. Both the noble Lords, Lord Elton and Lord Kingsland, will remember that this was not an aspect of controversy when we produced our unanimously agreed report.
I am saying that the caveat of the noble Lord, Lord Kingsland, to which the noble Lord, Lord Strathclyde, referred, that this could not come into effect without further resolution, enables me to meet what I felt was the will of the Chamber by introducing that single amendment on that occasion of resolution. It would then be a matter for your Lordships to decide. I am trying to deal fairly with a point which has been fairly raised.
Viscount Bledisloe: Before the noble and learned Lord departs from that point, I did not understand his answer. Is he saying that he will accept an amendment that this code should not come into effect until there is a further resolution? If not, he cannot get the words, "in private" on to the face of the code unless he accepts part of the amendment of the noble Lord, Lord Kingsland. If he merely gives administrative directions that the registrar should keep it private, that will not prevent the complainant going public and doing the damage. How is this to become part of the code that binds us?
Lord Williams of Mostyn: It would not be proper for me to try to give administrative directions in those circumstances. But I repeat--I obviously did not make myself clear--that the noble Lord, Lord Strathclyde, pointed out, quite rightly, that the amendment of the noble lord, Lord Kingsland, indicates at the bottom that none of it should come into effect until at the earliest the 31st March. I am saying that there will be an opportunity, if the question of privacy exercises and agitates noble Lords, to put it in as a single amendment. I do not resile from my general proposition that the code as put forward by the majority of the committee is infinitely preferable.
The question was raised in relation to the confidentiality of a friend's affairs. That applies to spouses as well; it always has. The noble Lord, Lord Williamson of Horton, raised the question of partnerships. Remunerated employment is specified and I would take that to include a partnership.
I turn now to the questions of the noble Lord, Lord Ezra. He referred to shareholdings not amounting to a controlling shareholding. That is simply the distinction to be found in paragraph 11, which states,
The noble Lord asked a question in relation to "friend". I hope I dealt with that. One does not need, "gifts of a substantial nature" because it is found within the text itself. It depends on the significance of the gift and that is allowed for.
The question was raised as to whether there would be too much burden on the registrar. The noble and learned Lord, Lord Nolan, in approaching eagerly his prospective chairmanship of this sub-committee, said that the registrar might need to take advice from the chairman of the committee. I would commend that sort of scheme to your Lordships, with the single comment that if the registrar had approached the chairman, the chairman might then be disqualified from chairing the committee which heard the complaint. But those are matters of fine detail. This is a matter for the committee and its recommendation on resource, but it seems to me that legal advice should be available. However, one should avoid the presence of lawyers on these occasions if at all possible, other than in the Chair.
The noble Baroness, Lady Williams, asked, as did others, about publishing a running history of what has happened to complaints so far. Subject to the views of the committee, that would be an excellent idea because a body of practice, not case law, would be built up.
Baroness Carnegy of Lour: I am grateful to the noble and learned Lord for giving way. I did ask him what one does if one does not know at a given moment what shares one has. How can one register them?
I thought that there would be more division among Members of the Committee. It seems to be the generally, though not exclusively, held view that we need to have a code, or perhaps it is better to say that we should have a code. The arguments produced by the majority for the code are strong. It is said that this is a report which I have put before Members of the Committee. That is literally true but it is not my report; it is that of a distinguished committee which, by and large, agreed on everything.
I believe that the procedure is now for the noble Lord, Lord Kingsland, to take his view and for a vote to be taken on his amendment. Should he not succeed in seducing the Committee into error, my Motion will be put.
Lord Kingsland: While respecting the view of the noble Lord, Lord Rees-Mogg, who I wish had tabled an amendment in the sense of his speech, the noble and learned Lord the Lord Privy Seal and myself are in almost total agreement. On the principle of approach there is nothing to divide us. As regards two of the five issues that do divide us, the noble and learned Lord has, in effect, accepted the point of view that I expressed in my amendment on the question of privacy of reporting; and I accept, in turn, his interpretation of the obligation in respect of registration of private trusts.
There remain but three issues between us. The first is whether or not somebody in receipt of money for providing parliamentary advice should declare that amount in circumstances where they are obliged neither to take part in debate nor vote.
The second is the vexed issue of "friend" and "relative". The noble and learned Lord will be relieved to hear that I shall not rehearse the debate. However, in final submission I draw the attention of the noble and learned Lord to the remarks made by the noble and learned Lord, Lord Nolan, who pleaded, above all, simplicity in our code. I can think of no area more likely to achieve the opposite than declarations of interests held by either relatives or friends, for all the reasons that have been given by so many Members of the Committee tonight.
Finally, in my submission the arguments for categorising significant shareholdings in the discretionary rather than the mandatory category are overwhelming, especially when there are additional obligations to make a declaration where an interest should clearly be expressed in debate.