Previous Section Back to Table of Contents Lords Hansard Home Page

Lord Howe of Aberavon: My Lords, I appreciate with due modesty the noble Lord's tribute to my tenacity. Would he be kind enough to undertake, when he goes home tonight or preferably tomorrow morning, to look at the evidence given to the committee under the chairmanship of the noble Lord, Lord Peston, by the professional bodies on the particular example that I cited in my speech, which depicts a scene wholly different from that which he has described so benignly in terms of consultation and satisfaction?

If we look in particular at the judgment they offer on Schedule 22, it is not a sufficient response to produce a bland, characteristically impressive, benign answer at this time of night and to believe that that has dealt with the problem. Will he undertake to look at it in that way?

Lord McIntosh of Haringey: My Lords, I have read the evidence. I will not undertake to do any more reading tonight, but I will undertake to look back at it again.

The noble Lord, Lord Freeman, made an interesting point about the tax structure review project to which I would like to respond. He said that a new tax structure review project should be established to simplify the structure of the tax system. The issue is that there cannot be a clear distinction between the structure of the tax system and the policy decisions about tax. That is the difficulty which the committee chaired by my noble friend Lord Peston has had in defining the limits of its remit. That has been commented on by a number of speakers. The structural design of a tax system is largely a reflection of the functional necessity of policy

3 Jul 2003 : Column 1143

implementation. It is difficult to see how changes to the structure could be enacted in a way that would not distort the implementation of policy. I am afraid that that is a very general point.

I would like to respond in more detail to the noble Lord, Lord Northbrook, and there are things that I would like to say about public borrowing and growth. In all cases, those comments are consistent with what we have said in the past. In response to a point made by the noble Lord, Lord Newby, our growth in the first quarter, although low, is fully consistent with our forecast of 2 to 2.5 per cent for 2003.

The noble Lord, Lord Northbrook, criticised public borrowing. At its peak this year, that borrowing is likely to be 2.5 per cent, compared with 8 per cent of GDP in the early 1990s. The noble Lord criticised the revision of the forecasts. Those are based on finances which are sound and sustainable and they remain fully affordable. I must confess that, if I had known he was going to make the same speech as the one he made last year, I would have looked up that speech and checked whether his predictions for the coming year have, in fact, been borne out. I suspect that they have not. I shall certainly be more prepared if he makes the same speech next year.

I have exceeded the time available. I am sorry if I missed out any of the significant points made. I can assure noble Lords that all their points will be taken into account in future policy-making.

On Question, Bill read a second time; Committee negatived; then, Standing Order 47 having been dispensed with (pursuant to Resolution of 2nd July), Bill read a third time, and passed.

Finance Bill 2003

10.9 p.m.

Lord Peston: My Lords, I beg to move the Motion standing in my name on the Order Paper. It falls to me only to thank noble Lords for taking part in the

3 Jul 2003 : Column 1144

debate, which I, at least, have found extremely interesting. In particular, I thank my noble friend Lord McIntosh. I was not threatening him, although, as he knows, I am quite capable of doing so; I was simply reminding him of the job that I thought he was going to do. Perhaps I may say to him that I believed he did exactly the job that I wanted him to do. What I cannot understand is the whole rigmarole of the difficulties that the Treasury has in replying to our committee. As my noble friend mostly did that, he could have done the whole job with no trouble whatever. But, subject to that, I consider that he did an admirable job and I thank him very much.

Moved, That this House takes note of the report of the Select Committee on Economic Affairs on the Finance Bill 2003 (3rd Report, HL Paper 121).—(Lord Peston.)

On Question, Motion agreed to.

Business of the House: Taxation (Information) Bill [HL]

Lord Saatchi: My Lords, I am glad to say that the usual channels have agreed that I can move this Bill on Wednesday, 9th July. Therefore, for tonight, I shall not move that the Bill be read a second time.

Financial Statement and Budget Report

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

Moved, That this House takes note with approval of the Government's assessment as set out in the Budget 2003 for the purposes of Section 5 of the European Communities (Amendment) Act 1993.—(Lord McIntosh of Haringey.)

On Question, Motion agreed to.

        House adjourned at ten minutes past ten o'clock.

3 Jul 2003 : Column 1143

3 Jul 2003 : Column GC233

Official Report of the Grand Committee on the

Fire Services Bill

(First Day) Thursday, 3rd July 2003.

The Committee met at a quarter before four of the clock.

[The Deputy Chairman of Committees (Lord Brougham and Vaux) in the Chair.]

The Deputy Chairman of Committees (Lord Brougham and Vaux): Before I put the Question that the Title be postponed, it may be helpful to remind your Lordships of the procedure for today's Committee stage. Except in one important respect, our proceedings will be exactly as in a normal Committee of the Whole House. We shall go through the Bill clause by clause; noble Lords will speak standing; all noble Lords are free to attend and participate; and the proceedings will be recorded in Hansard. The one difference is that the House has agreed that there shall be no Divisions in the Grand Committee. Any issue on which agreement cannot be reached should be considered again at the Report stage when, if necessary, a Division may be called. Unless, therefore, an amendment is likely to be agreed to, it should be withdrawn.

I should explain what will happen if there is a Division in the Chamber while we are sitting. The Committee will adjourn as soon as the Division Bells are rung and will resume after 10 minutes.

Title postponed.

Lord Campbell of Alloway moved Amendment No. 1:

    Before Clause 1, insert the following new clause—

(1) The powers conferred by section 1(1)(a), (3), (5), and (6) shall not be exercised unless—
(a) collective bargaining has failed or the award of a mandatory arbitral tribunal independent of Government has been ignored or rejected, or
(b) the exercise of such powers in a state of emergency has been approved by both Houses of Parliament on affirmative resolution, in which event section 1(3) shall not apply.
(2) Collective action whether primary or secondary taken at the instigation of a trade union with the intention to disrupt Fire Brigade services shall be unlawful."

The noble Lord said: It was apparent from the moment when the first Marshalled List was available in the Printed Paper Office that, since Second Reading, the tide had turned against the concept of this amendment, which restricts imposition of the conditions of service by government decree under

3 Jul 2003 : Column GC234

Clause 1(1)(a). That restrictive barrier had been lifted by a tripartite consensus, of which I was given no notice and of which I was wholly unaware.

The Minister of State, Office of the Deputy Prime Minister (Lord Rooker): Perhaps the noble Lord would allow me to make one comment, for the record. He said that the tide had turned against the amendment, but what he really means is that the tide had turned against the Bill. He would not be moving his amendment if the tide had turned against it, would he?

Lord Campbell of Alloway: I am moving the amendment against Clause 1(1)(a), notwithstanding that a tripartite consensus has emerged between my party, the Liberal Democrat Party and the Minister's party that the provision should stand unamended. That being the position—and it is a rather strange position—the erstwhile consensus on Second Reading as to the setting up of some form of "mandatory arbitral tribunal", independent of government, binding on the parties and on government, which seemed to be accepted by the House, has somehow evaporated into thin air.

The situation is that, if such be the political reality—as I believe to be at the moment—unashamed but naked, the amendment stands all but beyond the range of reasoned persuasion. Assuredly, it has not been moved as an exercise in confrontation, with a tripartite policy.

However, the merits of the argument have not been considered yet. They are worthy of objective examination, having commended themselves not only to another place, on the 20th March in the Statement that heralded the introduction of the Bill, but also in your Lordships' House at Second Reading, which my noble friend was unable to attend.

It is a dual-purpose Bill, tightly and deftly crafted. Clause 1(1)(a), with which the amendment is concerned, lies within the remit of industrial relations, employment and trade union law and is without the remit of local government law. Clause 1(1)(b), with which the amendment is not concerned, as implemented by the White Paper is not only requisite but wholly welcome—save for its control over the process of negotiation and bargaining, and subject always to the consultation that the paper envisaged, in particular, with local government. Albeit that the Bill, in this sense, is within the remit of local government, it is not a local government Bill.

[The Sitting was suspended for a Division in the House from 3.52 to 4.2 p.m.]

Next Section Back to Table of Contents Lords Hansard Home Page