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Lord Glentoran: My Lords, I thank the Minister for that statement. I do, indeed, feel reassured and, as this is where we wind up, I should say that for my part, in Part 2 of the Bill, we started with almost a sketch and have finished with a Bill that will achieve what the Government desire and will be comprehensible, usable and welcome. I offer my thanks to the Bill team and to the Minister for their courtesy. I hope that CICs become a success. I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.
This is an important and highly technical Bill and I am grateful to noble Lords on all sides of the House for taking part in the debates. The Government have listened carefully to all the points made. By my reckoning, nearly half of the government amendments tabled on Report were wholly or partly in response to points raised by noble Lords in Grand Committee. I believe, therefore, that we can all take satisfaction in having scrutinised and improved the Bill before sending it to the other House.
Perhaps I may also take this opportunity to thank the Bill team who have done a magnificent job, both in maintaining the clear purposes of the Bill, while at the same time being flexible in responding to thoughtful criticisms of practical details.
Lord Hodgson of Astley Abbotts: My Lords, this has been an odd Bill in the sense that we have had the cart before the horsethe horse being the company law review for the first part and the Charities Bill for the second. It has not been a particularly party political Bill because there has been fairly broad strategic agreement about what we were seeking to achieve, but there were, nevertheless, several lacunae or weaknesses that we were able to address in Committeein particular, the regulatory burden.
It is good that the Government have listened and I should like to place on record our thanks to the noble Lords, Lord Sainsbury and Lord Evans, who arranged the meetings at which we were able to examine the issues that concerned us and to explain how we felt that they could best be remedied. As a result I am happy to agree with the Minister that we have improved the Bill significantly during its passage through the House.
Perhaps I may add my thanks from these Benches to Keith Masson and the Bill team. I know that at an earlier part of the proceedings I said that he had drafted a wonderful chart of the new FRC structure. He subsequently told me that it was not him, but someone else in the Bill team who was responsible and I am happy to place on record my thanks to whoever it was who drafted that particular part of the Billit was very helpful, given the dense nature of the first section.
We also offer thanks for the external help and advice we had from the Law Society, the Institute of Chartered Accountants in England and Wales, Ashursts and from George Bompas QC, who was helpful on various aspects of extraterritoriality and the investigative side.
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We on these Benches conclude by saying that good corporate governance and a strong charitable sector are clearly important parts of our society. In so far as the Bill encourages both of those, we wish it well.
Lord Sharman: My Lords, I echo the sentiments of the noble Lord, Lord Hodgson. The Bill is now improved and significantly workable. I am particularly pleased that the Government listened and took a great deal of action on Clause 9, which was causing some considerable difficulties on this side of the House. I should also add my thanks to the Bill team. I should not admit that it was the first time that I understood the regulatory regime of accountants. So, thank you very much for that. The team has done an excellent job and we now have a Bill that is workable and will be of great benefit. Thank you.
The Secretary of State for Constitutional Affairs and Lord Chancellor (Lord Falconer of Thoroton): My Lords, I beg to move that the House do now again resolve itself into Committee (on Recommitment) on this Bill.
The noble Lord said: In moving this modest and simple amendment, I should first like to comment briefly on the fact that the noble Lord, Lord Richard, yesterday took me to task for having allowed a note of acidity to creep into my speech. My only comment on that is that, given my view of the recent saga regarding the Government's conduct towards the House of Lords, I thought my reaction was more than justified. I have nothing to add beyond that.
The first of my two amendments is rooted in doubt and uncertainty as to whether the Government actually mean what they say. I should be interested to hear what the noble and learned Lord says in reply. It is admirable that the Bill says that Ministers,
were inserted. I see no reason why they should not be, and that would underline the Government's stated intention and is in no way contrary to what Ministers state is their intention. I hope therefore that the noble and learned Lord will in an act of grace, which would go some way to comfort me, seek to accept the amendment on behalf of the Government. There is no need for me to prolong my remarks. The meaning of the amendment is obvious. I beg to move.
Viscount Bledisloe: Amendment No. 6 is grouped with Amendment No. 5, although the noble Lord, Lord Peyton, has not yet spoken to it. It seems to me that Amendment No. 6 adds enormous force to the issue. At present, Clause 1(3) states:
Lord Peyton of Yeovil: Perhaps the noble Viscount will forgive me for intervening. He is right: I did not refer to Amendment No. 6. Perhaps I should have done, but I thought that it would be simpler to keep the two separate, even though they are grouped together. After all, I have a right to move Amendment No. 6 in due course.
Viscount Bledisloe: I am in the hands of the Committee. I think that Amendment No. 6 is necessary and that, with that amendment, Amendment No. 5 is unnecessary. However, I shall happily wait until the noble Lord moves Amendment No. 6 before I say why it is desirable. I do not know whether the noble and learned Lord would find it more convenient to deal with the two together or separately. Perhaps he could give us some guidance.
Lord Crickhowell: I rise because my name is attached to Amendment No. 5. I had expected my noble friend to speak to both amendments together, and I think that it would have been helpful if he had. Although I put my name to Amendment No. 5 and not Amendment No. 6, on reconsideration I greatly prefer Amendment No. 6. But the fact is that my concern about this issue is fairly obvious.
It is a rather extraordinary suggestion that Ministers should seek to interfere by having private conversations with judges in order to try to obtain a particular decision. I do not think that is very likely to happen. The idea that they will carry out personal lobbying does not seem to me to be the real threat. The real threat is that there may be an attempt by Ministers, through briefing and so on, to stir up the media to create a campaign on why a particular line taken by the judiciary is wrong and to force the judiciary down a route where the law would not take them. Indeed, it is possible that a Minister would do something that I considered to be extremely unwise, as the Home Secretary did the other day. He commented on the kind of judgment that he would like to see in the case of the individual who had been sentenced in Portugal for offences in connection with football hooliganism.
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I am far more concerned about those wider horns of influence. I think that they would be effectively dealt with in a straightforward clause stating that one must not seek to influence particular judicial decisions. Such a clause would be totally unqualified, and that is what I should like to see us finish up with.
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