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Earl Russell: My Lords, may I congratulate the noble Lord on his promotion to his present position, which we warmly welcome? He has learnt, because he has worn enough hats to do so, that savings carry costs. Is he aware that his reservation "apart from pensions" is a very considerable one? Will he tell us how many of the contracted-out workers affected are making contributions to an occupational pension scheme? Will he confirm that for every one who is not, Richmond House is darkened by the shadow of an approaching MIG?

Lord Warner: My Lords, I draw the noble Earl's attention to the fact that we are not running the NHS centrally from Richmond House. Much of this area has been devolved to local decisions and local contracting negotiations and we would not be collecting centrally the information that he requests. I also draw his attention to the fact that I think this Question has its roots in past decisions. The future lies with Agenda for Change, which represents a totally new approach to determining pay and conditions of service for staff in the NHS, based on the principles of fair pay. That has been warmly welcomed by many of the members and union negotiators and will shortly come into operation.

Earl Howe: My Lords, is not the problem at the Royal Bolton Hospital—a two-tier workforce and differential pay rates—the same problem as the one that for many months has been holding up the final

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signature on a considerable number of PFI hospital-building contracts? If that is so, what are the Government doing to unblock the logjam on those contracts?

Lord Warner: My Lords, staff other than managers who are transferred under PFI services such as catering, laundry and portering services, of the kind involved in some of the disputes dealt with in the Question, remain on an NHS contract and continue to have the rights of NHS staff through the new retention of employment model. Under the agenda for change which I mentioned, that new system will apply to those staff.

EU Enlargement: Social Security Benefits

3.2 p.m.

Baroness Seccombe asked Her Majesty's Government:

    Whether, on enlargement of the European Union, access for eastern Europeans to Britain's benefit system can be restricted by introducing a qualifying period.

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Department for Culture, Media and Sport (Lord McIntosh of Haringey) No, my Lords. From the date of accession, people from the acceding states who move to the United Kingdom or any other member state will be subject to the same qualifying rules for social security benefits which apply to all EU citizens. Discrimination on grounds of nationality will not be permitted.

Baroness Seccombe: My Lords, I thank the Minister for that reply. However, why was not the Government's research and analysis on this sensitive matter published before the accession Bill was before another place? Can we be assured that all the facts will be available before we debate it next week? Can he say on what basis the Government decided not to impose a two or seven-year qualifying period?

Lord McIntosh of Haringey: My Lords, I cannot be responsible for the fact that Mr Letwin, and indeed apparently the noble Baroness, Lady Seccombe, have misunderstood the facts, which have always been clear. Right from the beginning there has never been any doubt that member states cannot impose a qualifying period for social security benefits. I understand the confusion in some people's minds between that and the ability to work, where a qualifying period is possible, but it is not our responsibility that some people insist on misunderstanding the position.

Earl Russell: My Lords, will the Minister confirm that this point was exhaustively covered during the discussions on the Nationality, Immigration and Asylum Bill? Will he further confirm that, according to

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Eurostat statistics, British benefits are below the European average and are therefore not quite so attractive as some may hope and others may fear?

Lord McIntosh of Haringey: My Lords, the combination of the noble Earl's elephantine memory and his involvement in the Nationality, Immigration and Asylum Act, neither of which I share, lead me to believe that he must be right on the first point that he makes. As for benefits, I am sure that the thrust of what he says is right. However, clearly there are differences in different benefit levels in different member states. To generalise, I think, would be unwise.

Lord Higgins: My Lords, I remain absolutely astonished at the noble Lord's versatility on these issues. However, as concern was expressed in another place about a lack of information on these issues, may I inquire what further information will be provided with regard to the cost of social security benefits? Can he tell us now which social security benefits will be available to those coming from eastern Europe to this country and which will not?

Lord McIntosh of Haringey: My Lords, I am grateful for the comments of the noble Lord, Lord Higgins. Of course he will know that I am here because my noble friend Lady Hollis has an appointment with her eye consultant this afternoon. I am sure that we all wish her well.

Noble Lords: Hear, hear.

Lord McIntosh of Haringey: My Lords, on the question of costs, I am sure that all the information will be available. On the question of which social security benefits apply to all EU citizens, I referred in my initial Answer to the qualifying rules. Of course the qualifying rules include the habitual residence test which was introduced, in 1994, into income support, housing and council tax benefit and, from 1996, into income-based jobseeker's allowance. That is specifically to deal with those whose main purpose in coming to the United Kingdom is to claim benefits.

Baroness Carnegy of Lour: If I may, my Lords, I should like to ask the noble Lord a question on a particularly sensitive issue. In the eastern European countries there are large numbers of Romany people, many of whom have a hard time in their home countries and for whom free movement westwards in the European Union may prove very attractive indeed. Can the Minister tell us whether the Government are taking account in assessing their future benefit costs of the possible increase in the number of asylum seekers who may come from that quarter?

Lord McIntosh of Haringey: Yes, my Lords, of course we are doing that. At the same time, however, the noble Baroness, Lady Carnegy, will be aware that there has been very considerable pressure, particularly on the Czech Republic, Slovakia and, indeed,

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Hungary, to improve the conditions of Roma people in their countries as part of the process of accession to the European Union. There have been some successes in that area, although I am sure nothing like enough yet.

Lord Higgins: My Lords, perhaps I may join the noble Lord in wishing the noble Baroness, Lady Hollis, well in the light of the circumstances that he described.

Do the Government have any estimate of the total cost to the British taxpayer in, say, each of the next five years of the changes envisaged under the accession treaty?

Lord McIntosh of Haringey: My Lords, we do not have an estimate of the cost, but there are estimates of the numbers concerned. Research carried out by the former Department for Education and Employment estimated a range of between 55,000 and 278,000 migrants from the new member states per year across the whole of the European Union after accession. Extrapolating down, and bearing in mind the fact that 80 per cent of those nationals from the new member states are in Germany and Austria, the total flows to the United Kingdom could be in the range of 3,000 to 14,000 per annum. It will be seen, therefore, that the costs are not going to be extravagant.

The Countess of Mar: My Lords, does the noble Lord agree that we should not always regard migrants as a burden on our society and that many of them come with great entrepreneurial assets and make a great contribution? I think particularly of those who came from East Africa and the Indian subcontinent who have proved to be invaluable to our country.

Lord McIntosh of Haringey: My Lords, I agree very strongly with that. I think that these people from the acceding countries should be welcomed and treated as friends. Indeed, it is for exactly that reason that the United Kingdom has decided not to seek a qualifying period for citizens of those countries to come here as workers. It will be known that some of the member states are imposing qualifying periods. We, like five other members states, have decided not to do so. We believe that it is to our economic and social advantage to have those people in this country. That view, I may say, is shared by the Confederation of British Industry and the Trades Union Congress.

Speaker of the House of Lords

3.9 p.m.

Lord Williams of Mostyn: My Lords, with the leave of the House, I shall make a further Statement concerning the Government's proposals for the Speakership of this House.

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On Thursday 12th June the Government announced proposals to reform the office of Lord Chancellor, including a proposal that this House should choose its own presiding officer. Last Monday I announced a week of consultation on that proposal.

I am very grateful indeed that many of your Lordships from all around the House have contributed to that consultation, by either walking through my open door or writing to me. I have also gathered views from others by less formal means. This consultation has served a useful purpose in giving me and the usual channels a fair idea of where consensus may be found and how we may move forward.

I suggested last week that the main question was, shall we take this opportunity to set up a mechanism to appoint our own Presiding Officer? There are many who think that we should. I do not pretend that there is consensus. Some see no case for change at all and some believe that the House benefits from having a member of the Government as its presiding officer.

Many of your Lordships advised me that the question of the appointment of our Presiding Officer cannot be separated from the question of powers and functions. I accept that. Some of your Lordships favour a Speakership with significant powers of order, but I have to say that they are in a minority. More favour either a Presiding Officer with no more powers and functions than the Lord Chancellor exercises at present, or a Presiding Officer who would take from me and my colleagues on the Government Front Bench our role as upholders of the conventions of the House set out in the Companion. Either way, there is strong support for continued self-regulation, and strong feelings against a Speakership in this House on House of Commons lines. So I believe that the process of consultation, which was very extensive and very helpful, has been useful.

It is not strictly relevant, but I ought to mention that several noble Lords on all sides of the House took the opportunity to give their view that in recent months self-regulation has slipped a bit in the direction of self-indulgence.

Of those who commented on the method of appointment of a Presiding Officer, most favour election. Some proposed safeguards, such as a minimum number of nominations from each group in the House. But there are other views, including the view that an elected Presiding Officer would inevitably be too powerful for self-regulation to survive.

In short, there is plainly not a level of consensus which would allow me to put proposals straight to the Procedure Committee. On the contrary, there is very strong support on all sides of the House for a Select Committee on the speakership, and that is what I now propose. I shall shortly table a Motion to set up a committee, with a remit as follows:

    "To consider the future arrangements for the Speakership of the House in the light of the Government's announcement that it is intended to reform the office of Lord Chancellor".

That remit will allow the committee to consider not only the role of the Presiding Officer, and the method of appointment, but also the following issues which

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your Lordships have identified as important: the Presiding Officer's title, pay, term of office and accommodation—the latter was a topic of keen interest, particularly among those of your Lordships who assured me they had no interest in occupying the particular post—Deputy Speakers; the relationship with the Chairman of Committees, the Clerk of the Parliaments and the Clerks, and the House authorities generally and, of course, State Opening and other ceremonial functions.

As your Lordships will understand, I am not proposing today a Select Committee on the Government's proposals for the Supreme Court and judicial appointments. As my noble and learned friend said in answer to the earlier Question from the noble Lord, Lord Lamont, the Government's proposals on those matters will be published on 14th July. Of course the committee will be able to have regard to them if it considers them relevant to the question of the Speakership.

As to timetable, I envisage that the committee will start work before the recess, and report by the end of the Session, with a view to changes being introduced early in the new Session, subject, of course—I underline that if I may—to the committee's recommendations and the wishes of the House. The House will, of course, have a full debate on the committee's report.

My Lords, copies of this Statement are available as usual.

3.15 p.m.

Lord Strathclyde: My Lords, I begin by thanking the noble and learned Lord for making the Statement. I also thank him for the trouble that he has taken to consult widely across the House in the short time that he allowed himself. Perhaps he will give us an idea of the number of representations that he received. All I shall say is: if only the Prime Minister had done the same; life would have been a lot easier.

For myself, when there is so much other pressing business, I find it hard to see the urgency in this matter. After all, we have a system that works. It is old certainly but it is not bad just because it is old; it has become old because it works.

From our perspective, this is a House matter. It is certainly in no sense a government matter, and in that sense I think that a Select Committee is the right response. I also have no quarrel with the terms of reference suggested by the noble and learned Lord, if he will underline the point made in his Statement that the Select Committee must have regard to the whole range of changes proposed to the role of Lord Chancellor.

Can the noble and learned Lord say when the House will be able to debate the promised Motion to set up a Select Committee? Can he promise us that when the noble and learned Lord the Lord Chancellor is in a position to tell us what should be done with the other parts of his office, he will make a Statement to this House—certainly in advance of any press briefing on 14th July? He might also give an opinion as to whether or not he believes that will be in the form of a White

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Paper. This may be a point better made when we debate the terms of reference, but I see no need to make any changes to the role of Speaker of this House until the Lord Chancellor is divested of his other responsibilities.

The noble and learned Lord proposed examination of the State Opening. Are the Government proposing any other change in that great ceremony other than in the role of the Lord Chancellor? Will he confirm that the noble and learned Lord will play the usual role in the State Opening this year?

The noble and learned Lord the Leader of the House must be under no illusion as to the importance we attach to the freedoms of Peers in this House and to the value of self-regulation. He added a gentle poke about our self-indulgence. I agree it is important that noble Lords on all sides display restraint if self-regulation is to work as it always has. But the answer I suspect lies not in changing the system or subjecting us to a Chair but in each of us knowing and respecting the rules. I certainly subscribe to the importance of that. Perhaps I may be allowed my own aside. Self-regulation might sometimes work better if Ministers answered the questions they were asked, and did so briefly.

We have to look at the issue of the Speakership; the Government have placed it on the agenda. But there is no case for haste. We on this side of the House are content with the role played by the Lord Chancellor in this House, but if the House agrees to establish a Select Committee, we shall play our full part in it. But the Select Committee must do its work thoroughly and should resist any blandishments from the Government.

3.18 p.m.

Baroness Williams of Crosby: My Lords, I, too, thank the noble and learned Lord the Leader of the House. He has, indeed, been a paragon of consultation in the past week or so. We are grateful to him for keeping his door open to all Members who wished to consult with him. However, that, in the view of these Benches, does not detract from what I can only describe as a disgraceful handling of this matter—one that in our view was unfair to a very distinguished former Lord Chancellor and also unfair to Members of this House who should in our view have been consulted much more thoroughly before such a huge constitutional change was made.

Having said that, we on these Benches strongly support the idea of a Select Committee. We believe that it is the right way to go forward. We believe that that Select Committee will examine very carefully all the various considerations that have been raised by Members of this House. Having said that, it would be very helpful—perhaps the noble and learned Lord the Leader of the House can assist us on this matter—if we could have a list of all the functions of the Lord Chancellor that will remain with that post, with the exception of those posts that pass to the Minister for Constitutional Affairs, and also the judicial responsibilities of the Lord Chancellor. Members of this House will know that there are, as the noble Lord the Leader of the Opposition indicated, many functions pertaining to the Lord Chancellor,

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including even such rather controversial issues as the appointment of certain members of the Church of England clergy. It would be extremely helpful if Members of the House could know what those functions are, and if the Select Committee could know what they are before it starts its work.

I have two final points. In our view, serious consideration should be given to retaining the title. The person who will preside over this House will also in many instances represent this House, particularly abroad. We should think very carefully before abandoning a title that has great historic reverberations associated with it, and that enables those persons who preside over this House to establish themselves as very major personalities when they visit other parliaments and other senates in other parts of the world.

With regard to the understandable expression of some concern about self-indulgence by Members of this House in continuing to discuss matters, for example, on Report and at Third Reading that have already been dealt with in Committee, many noble Lords would be more than happy to co-operate in assisting in speeding up the business of the House, but we require a serious commitment from the Government. The largest number of new amendments to legislation going through this House are presented by the Government themselves, literally in the thousands in the course of a Session.

If we could receive an assurance from the noble and learned Lord the Leader of the House that he will ask Ministers who bring forward legislation to do so in the most complete form possible, recognising therefore that amendments should come up only if there are urgent reasons for doing so, all of us in the House would be able to handle the business much more efficiently and effectively. We would therefore continue the excellent tradition of self-regulation.

3.22 p.m.

Lord Williams of Mostyn: My Lords, I was very shocked that the noble Lord, Lord Strathclyde, proposed without consultation of any sort revolutionary constitutional changes; namely, that Ministers should be expected to answer the questions put to them. He is quite right, of course, and I am very grateful for the tone of his remarks and those of the noble Baroness, Lady Williams, and also for the tone with which all noble Lords came for consultation. There are different views, but no view was expressed other than in a spirit of co-operative amity, and I am very grateful for that.

There were a large number of respondents. I cannot give the precise number, because responses were still pouring in as I left my room to come to the Chamber, but there were well over 80 very deeply considered and well thought-out proposals. Of course, there were informal ones as well. Our attendance is perhaps of the order of 300 to 350, so that is quite a significant tribute to the interest that all noble Lords have shown and taken. Many noble Lords said that they came with a generalised view, representing views additional to their own, so in that sense 80 is a shade of an underestimate.

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I agree with the noble Lord, Lord Strathclyde, that the matter is for the House. I will not be proposing any Front Bench representation from our side on the Select Committee, and I hope that that strikes noble Lords as appropriate.

The question of the Motion for the Select Committee is intended to be first business on Thursday 3rd July, in answer to the noble Lord's specific question. We have no proposals for altering the occasion of State Opening. Indeed, the noble and learned Lord the Lord Chancellor has made it plain himself, and also through me with his authority, that he is perfectly content to discharge such duties for such a time as your Lordships think appropriate. I know that his generosity of heart and approach has been welcomed by all noble Lords.

The noble Baroness asked about a list of the manifold duties of the Lord Chancellor. Urgent work is in hand on that. Speaking on behalf of my noble and learned friend, I can say that, although I think that he has to appoint 500 or 600 vicars to the Church of England, he has nothing at all to do with the appointment of Bishops.

A number of noble Lords had different views about the title, to return to the specific point of the noble Baroness. There was very little support for "Presiding Officer". It reminded your Lordships too much of Scotland—or Wales. There was some support for "Speaker", but that was underlined by the fact that we did not want any confusion with the sort of beast that the Speaker is in the House of Commons. I was happy to note that there was some support for "Lord President", and I heartily endorse that.

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