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Lord Sainsbury of Turville: My Lords, the White Paper on company law to which the noble Lord refers accepted the conclusions of the company law review that there should be a statutory statement of directors' duties and that all directors should be subject to the same set of general duties regardless of any particular duties they may have under service agreements as employees. As the noble Lord said, the draft statement does not define the role or the independence of non-executive directors. However, considerable work is going on in the form of the interim report of the Co-ordinating Group on Audit and Accounting Issues. The report has a bearing on the question of the role of non-executive directors and contains two recommendations clearly to that effect. The question of the role of the non-executive directors will clearly be considered in the light of that. The issue of definition also is important. It is likely that the matter of non-executive directors' independence will require greater definition than the term non-executive director.

Lord Barnett: My Lords, will my noble friend clarify whether the Government are truly considering legislation in this regard? In view of the role of non-executive directors in current circumstances, and especially because they must man the audit committee of most major companies—I am sure that he recognises that role—has he in mind moving towards European-style supervisory boards of non-executive directors?

Lord Sainsbury of Turville: My Lords, as I hope I made clear, related work is under way. The interim report of the Co-ordinating Group on Audit and Accounting Issues recommended an examination of the improved combined code guidance for audit committees on their responsibilities and how to meet them. That is being taken forward by the Financial Reporting Council. The report also recommends that the Government consider underpinning in company law the

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role and responsibility of audit committees. Those two steps are bound to relate to the question. However, I know of no proposals on supervisory boards.

Lord Marlesford: My Lords, does the Minister believe that a primary role and responsibility of a non-executive director is to become aware of the potential insolvency of the company just as soon as any executive director becomes aware of it, and to see that that information is immediately transmitted to the shareholders and the investing community in general?

Lord Sainsbury of Turville: My Lords, in this, as in so many other respects, non-executive directors' responsibilities are similar to those of all other directors. Indeed, that is one of the arguments being put forward in relation to whether we need a particular definition of a non-executive. However, I should have thought that, in this and many other matters, the role of the non-executive is the same as that of other directors.

Lord Borrie: My Lords, I declare an interest as a non-executive director. Does my noble friend agree that it would be better if the law did not perpetuate the fiction that a non-executive director has as much knowledge, control and influence over the affairs of a company as an executive director? Would it not be better if those roles were set out separately and clearly so that we all understand where we are?

Lord Sainsbury of Turville: My Lords, it is exactly that kind of question that is being looked at at the moment. Some believe that all directors should be the same. However, the noble Lord makes the fair point that in some aspects directors are not the same. Those are the kind of issues which need to be considered.

Lord Hooson: My Lords, is not one of the problems that so many non-executive directors are executive directors of other companies? As regards remuneration committees, do they not have a vested interest in keeping board salaries at as high a level as possible? How does the Minister propose to deal with that problem?

Lord Sainsbury of Turville: My Lords, it is difficult to find someone who does not have a view who is at the same time expert enough to act as a non-executive director. I believe that the right way to approach the matter is to strengthen the role of shareholders, as we are doing through regulations, so that there is greater transparency rather than to believe that one can get a competent non-executive director who has no links with the business world.

Traffic Measures in London

11.21 a.m.

Lord Peyton of Yeovil asked Her Majesty's Government:

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    To what extent traffic measures proposed by the Mayor of London are discussed with or notified to government departments.

Lord McIntosh of Haringey: My Lords, the Mayor of London, through Transport for London, has powers to regulate traffic. Traffic measures are sometimes discussed among other matters when the Mayor meets transport Ministers from time to time. Transport for London also discusses traffic proposals with the Highways Agency as part of normal liaison procedures. However, in general, there is no formal requirement for Transport for London or other local traffic authorities to notify, or seek consent from, the Government about proposed traffic measures except in a few cases surviving from the Road Traffic Regulation Act 1984 such as notification of the installation of a pedestrian crossing or consents to close roads for certain special events.

Lord Peyton of Yeovil: My Lords, that Answer does nothing to diminish my anxieties. I wonder whether the noble Lord could give us some idea as to how long the Government can realistically expect to stand aside from the impact of the Mayor's plans for London, both as regards their cost and their physical disturbance? Likewise, can they really continue to ignore the tissue of measures which the Mayor is taking currently, including even the rephasing of traffic lights, to exclude the motor car from London? I wonder whether the time has not come to grapple with this joker whose jokes may not be all that funny in the end.

Lord McIntosh of Haringey: My Lords, I am sorry that my careful and factual response to a legitimate Question should cause the noble Lord, Lord Peyton, anxiety. He is in effect asking for the repeal of the Greater London Authority Act 1999. The Government have no intention of repealing that Act.

Lord Campbell-Savours: My Lords, would we remain detached in the event of gridlock?

Lord McIntosh of Haringey: My Lords, what is the definition of "gridlock"? There has been gridlock. There was gridlock last week when 800 traffic signals went down. That is a matter for the Mayor and it should be a matter for the Mayor.

Lord Geddes: My Lords, does the Minister concur with the comments made to me recently by the chief planning officer of a major London borough that the present policy of the Mayor of London is quite deliberate; namely, to make the traffic conditions so appalling to soften up the motorist in particular for when the congestion charge is introduced? Will he also advise the House what policy Her Majesty's Government are taking regarding Members of your Lordships' House and of another place getting in to Parliament when the congestion charge is introduced?

Lord McIntosh of Haringey: My Lords, Members of Parliament will quite rightly have to pay the

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congestion charge like everyone else. There would be a public outcry if that were not the case. Of course I have heard the allegations about the motives behind the changes in traffic signal phasing and many other matters. However, those are not ministerial responsibilities.

Lord Addington: My Lords—

Baroness Trumpington: My Lords—

Lord Williams of Mostyn: My Lords, it is the turn of the Liberal Democrats.

Lord Addington: My Lords, does the Minister agree that all forms of devolved government must be allowed to do what their powers entitle them to do? The ultimate answer is for the electorate to remove them if they do not like what they are doing.

Lord McIntosh of Haringey: My Lords, I agree entirely with what the noble Lord, Lord Addington, says. I have always thought that governments in power were centralisers and oppositions were always decentralisers. However, now we appear to have a centralising Opposition.

Lord Rotherwick: My Lords—

Baroness Trumpington: My Lords—

Lord Williams of Mostyn: My Lords, it has to be the turn of the noble Baroness, Lady Trumpington.

Baroness Trumpington: My Lords, I realise that I take my life in my hands when I address questions on this subject to the noble Lord, Lord McIntosh. However, does he take any interest in the safe passage of emergency vehicles through the present London traffic congestion?

Lord McIntosh of Haringey: Yes, my Lords. Road safety is one of the responsibilities of government. Of course we listen carefully to the police, the Ambulance Service and the fire brigade.

Lord Strathclyde: My Lords, I have listened to the answers of the noble Lord, Lord McIntosh of Haringey, with mounting incredulity. Is it really true that the Government have turned their back entirely on the problems of traffic congestion in London with all that that means for businesses, for people who live in London and for those who come into London in order to carry out business? Can the noble Lord think of any other capital city in Europe where the central government have no interest in what happens to traffic in the capital?

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