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Lord Steinberg: My Lords, I thank the Minister for his reply. Would he not agree that steps must be taken to ensure that we remain in a pre-eminent position? This Northern Rock scandal has been running for six months and if it has not done any damage at home, which I doubt, it will undoubtedly have done some damage abroad. What steps will be taken to ensure that our reputation does not suffer? Furthermore, what proposals are there for the Granite trust, which is run from the Channel Islands and is apparently a subsidiary of Northern Rock? Finally, in hindsight, would it not have been a good idea to have done a deal with Lloyds-TSB last August?

Lord Davies of Oldham: My Lords, all these issues were raised in the debates on the Bill last week, but the noble Lord is right to say that it is important to protect the lead which London enjoys in the provision of financial services. That has been the burden of the Government’s intent ever since Northern Rock presented the problem and why the Government have made strenuous efforts to solve it over the past six months. The Bill passed last week represents the conclusion of those efforts so far as immediate action is concerned.

On the other points, as I mentioned last week, Granite is entirely separate from Northern Rock. However, later today a statement will be made on Granite to cover a number of points that have been raised. I am not able to go beyond that at this immediate moment.

Lord Peston: My Lords, bearing in mind that the job of the Official Opposition is to oppose—they do it so marvellously that I am sure the electorate will see to it they it carry on opposing for at least the next decade—is not the lesson to be learnt from Northern Rock mainly about the immense strength of both the City of London and the British economy? Despite all the events of the recent past, both direct and portfolio investment is still pouring into the City and our reputation as the leading financial centre has not been lowered either here or abroad. What one would like to hear is a bit more support for the City of London and for the British economy rather than carping criticism.

Lord Davies of Oldham: My Lords, as always my noble friend is right in both his broad proposition and in some of the details. London produces resources from its financial services twice as large as any other financial centre, and of course we value that. On the more general issue of the attitude of the Opposition, what has been clear throughout the past six months is that while they have been strong on criticism, they have been very weak on constructive suggestions.

Lord Trefgarne: My Lords, is it not a matter of regret that the noble Lord, Lord Peston, has only a life peerage? If he had a hereditary peerage, would we not have the prospect of seeing his son in this House? He first brought this matter to public attention.

Lord Davies of Oldham: My Lords, like father, like son.

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Lord Maxton: My Lords, has my noble friend seen that recent YouGov opinion polls show clearly that despite the best efforts of the Opposition both in this House and the other place, the people of this country blame the Northern Rock management for what went wrong and are fully in support of the actions that the Government have taken?

Lord Davies of Oldham: My Lords, I am concerned to be fair to the Opposition, which I am sure is prepared to accept that the Northern Rock management was a contributory factor to the problem, so I would not want my noble friend to be too stringent in his criticism in those terms. This is a problem concerning a bank in the private sector which was managed badly rather than well. The Government have taken appropriate action to solve the problem.

Lord Newby: My Lords, does the Minister agree that one aspect of London’s reputation in respect of Northern Rock going forward will be how the Government manage their relationship with the bank. On Thursday, the Minister said that:

Given that Northern Rock has now been brought into public ownership, when will the new management have the framework and when can we see it?

Lord Davies of Oldham: My Lords, the Northern Rock management has a pretty full agenda at the present time. It has to produce a business plan that meets the requirements of the European Commission and it has to meet the proper requirements to ensure that it does not enjoy an unfair competitive advantage—for which the Government will also take responsibility. The House will recognise the time constraint of 17 March as regards Brussels, but the Government will want to see how the strategic plan of the relationship between the Treasury and Northern Rock develops, and of course it will be put into the public domain.

Lord Higgins: My Lords, will a Statement be made to the House orally? If not, why not?

Lord Davies of Oldham: My Lords, I am not sure that I have addressed myself to that detail at the present point. I have given the assurance I gave last week that this aspect of the strategic plan will be put into the public domain. It may be considered adequate that the normal parliamentary processes of cross-examination take place, but if the Opposition are as insistent as the noble Lord that a Statement should be made upon it, I have no doubt that the Chancellor will pay due regard to that.

Lord Barnett: My Lords, does my noble friend accept that, in the current circumstances, it is important that we have maximum transparency on Northern Rock and that there is certainly none as far as Granite is concerned? He will have seen the letter that the Chancellor wrote to Vince Cable last week

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which makes it totally unclear what the position is. I am glad there is going to be a Statement, but could he make it clear today that there are no assets in Granite over which we would have had a first charge?

Lord Davies of Oldham: My Lords, I can assure my noble friend on the latter point that that is the case. I apologise to the noble Lord, Lord Higgins, because I misinterpreted his question and I want to clear the matter up. I thought he was talking about a Statement on the strategic plan for the future but he was talking about Granite. That is not the subject of a Statement, but the Treasury will be making the details of the position clear today.

Disabled Persons (Independent Living) Bill [HL]

3.07 pm

Baroness Wilkins: My Lords, on behalf of my noble friend Lord Ashley of Stoke, I beg to move that this Bill be now read a third time.

Moved accordingly, and, on Question, Bill read a third time.

An amendment (privilege) made.

Baroness Wilkins: My Lords, I beg to move that the Bill do now pass. In doing so, perhaps I may pay tribute to Lady Darcy de Knayth. She loved your Lordships’ House, and it loved her. She was a devoted Member for more than three decades and was always conscientious in questioning and ready with her help, whoever wanted it. She was devoted to the passage of this Bill and has taken part in refining and passing every piece of disability legislation over the past three decades, ever since the Chronically Sick and Disabled Persons Act in which she gave her maiden speech. She will be greatly missed.

Moved, That the Bill do now pass.—(Baroness Wilkins.)

Baroness D'Souza: My Lords, Lady Darcy de Knayth was among the first group of female Peers that came into the House of Lords in 1969 following the 1963 Act. In 1999 she came top of the list in the election for hereditary Peers. She was, as we have heard, one of the most assiduous attenders, and we all know what that must have cost her. Her interests were wide and catholic and, time and again, she voted on the basis of conscience. She was especially involved in the rights for the disabled movement, where she was hugely and widely regarded. Having been in the House for so many years, she knew everyone and could count everyone, including the staff, as her friends, some of them very close friends. We shall miss her immeasurably.

Lord Addington: My Lords, in wishing the Bill well in its passage, I wish to say that Lady Darcy de Knayth was one of the people who helped me when I first got here. I am happy to have been her ally on many occasions in this House. She embodied the true

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spirit of the Cross Benches; she struck equally hard at whoever happened to be on the government Front Bench, often very accurately. She went into every piece of legislation honestly. She was open to argument and was not afraid to change her mind. If any of us decided to become more than party hacks and aspired to her example, the world would be a better place.

Baroness Masham of Ilton: My Lords, I was telephoned at 8.15 on Saturday morning from my noble friend’s home to say that she had had seizures and had been admitted to her local hospital in Slough, which unfortunately was not equipped to deal with a seriously ill person with spinal injuries. My noble friend had been treated for years at the National Spinal Injuries Centre at Stoke Mandeville hospital, which, tragically, would not admit her for some reason yet to be explained. As president of the Spinal Injuries Association, I will be asking the Government to review the very inadequate facilities for the 6,000 people living with the results of spinal injuries, especially in the south of England.

On Saturday, I gave my noble friend’s son the home telephone number of Professor Mathias of St Mary’s Hospital, Paddington, and Queen Square Hospital. He is an expert on autonomic dysreflexia, a condition my noble friend thought she had. The moment he heard, he tried to help. I pay tribute to Professor Mathias for his sense of urgency, his care and his support for the family and myself. I wish all the doctors had been like him.

Davina died in the early hours of Sunday morning. There will be a post-mortem as there has been an undiagnosed problem since before Christmas. My noble friend will be missed by so many people.

Lord Acton: My Lords, Lady Darcy de Knayth’s mother and my mother were step-sisters, so she was my step-first cousin. I think she was the first person ever to be referred to as a “kinswoman” in this House. She did not know the meaning of the word “self-pity”. When the appalling car crash happened in 1964 when her husband was killed and she suffered the most dreadful injuries—she had three little children, though they were not in the car, thank God—she was in hospital for many months. One day, after she came out, she was with her mother who was berating fate. Davina said, “But Mummy, don’t you see? Life is so much more interesting now. I have to lie there and work out how to turn over. Life is much more fascinating”.

As has been said by the noble Lord, Lord Addington, among others, she used to come here and stay till all hours to move amendments. What many noble Lords may not know is that it took her three hours to get ready every morning. She never complained about that; she just took it as read, in her objective way, that that was how life now was. Sometimes when I am in America I am asked to make speeches. Americans have a way of asking you, “Who is your hero?”, and I always said, “My cousin Davina”.

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Earl Howe: My Lords, Lady Darcy de Knayth has sat in your Lordships’ House for nearly 40 years as one of only a very few female hereditary Peers. During that time she has been a considerable presence here and has made a notable contribution on behalf of many causes in the field of disability, a number of which she was herself associated with in an honorary capacity. As opposition health spokesman I had the pleasure of meeting and talking to her on numerous occasions and was always struck by her lack of affectation as well as her wisdom. My noble friends and I will miss her and her refreshingly positive approach to life.

Baroness Thornton: My Lords, I wholeheartedly associate the Government Benches with the sorrow expressed by noble Lords at the untimely death of our friend and colleague, Lady Darcy de Knayth. I know that she will be very much missed across the House—her work, her laugh, her attitude and the enormous amount of work she did on behalf of many causes. I will miss her because of her personal kindness and friendship to me in the 10 years I have been in the House. I know that I am expressing the view that all of us feel at this time.

Baroness Wilkins: My Lords, I am grateful to all those who have spoken.

On Question, Bill passed and sent to the Commons.

Northumberland (Structural Change) Order 2008

County Durham (Structural Change) Order 2008

Cornwall (Structural Change) Order 2008

Shropshire (Structural Change) Order 2008

3.16 pm

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Department for Communities and Local Government (Baroness Andrews): My Lords, I beg to move the first four Motions standing in my name on the Order Paper.

Moved, That the draft orders laid before the House on 8 January be approved. 6th Report from the Joint Committee on Statutory Instruments, 7th Report from the Merits Committee, Considered in Grand Committee on 21 February.—(Baroness Andrews.)

On Question, Motions agreed to.

Wiltshire (Structural Change) Order 2008

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Department for Communities and Local Government (Baroness Andrews): My Lords, I beg to move the fifth Motion standing in my name on the Order Paper.

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Moved, That the draft order laid before the House on 8 January be approved. 6th Report from the Joint Committee on Statutory Instruments, 7th Report from the Merits Committee, Considered in Grand Committee on 21 February.—(Baroness Andrews.)

Lord Geddes rose to move, as an amendment to the Motion, at end to insert “but this House calls on Her Majesty’s Government to withdraw the draft order and not to lay an amended draft order until the Court of Appeal has issued its judgment in Congleton Borough Council and Shrewsbury & Atcham Borough Council v The Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government.”

The noble Lord said: My Lords, for those who were not able to be in Grand Committee last Thursday, perhaps it would be helpful if I just mentioned the three points that were raised regarding Wiltshire’s objection to the order. The first was cost; the consensus is that Wiltshire County Council has grossly underestimated the cost. The second point, which is the substantive one with regard to my amendment, relates to acceptance. Prior to the consultation, the second objective of all these orders was stated to be that the proposals must be,

In the discussion that the noble Baroness and I had in Grand Committee last Thursday, she was kind enough to acknowledge, having twice stressed that one-third of the respondents from Wiltshire had been in favour of the plan, that two-thirds had been against the plan. I just point out to the Minister that two-thirds is twice as much as one-third. That is fairly simple mathematics, which even somebody like me can cope with.

The two boroughs in question are not in Wiltshire, but the result of the court case will affect all these orders, so I hope that I am allowed to speak on Wiltshire’s behalf by referring to Congleton and Shrewsbury and Atcham. The position as I understand it—I do not speak as a lawyer—is that the case went to court in September and Mr Justice Underhill upheld the Government’s case on all three grounds. However, the councils were granted leave to appeal.

I come back to one of the original objectives, which was to achieve broad consensus. The councils argued that the original wording meant that there must be support for a proposal before it could go forward to implementation. The Secretary of State changed that to claim that, if the proposals were implemented, the support would be forthcoming afterwards. This is slightly curious. The court conceded that the criteria had been changed but claimed that the Secretary of State was entitled to change her mind on the criteria as the process unfolded. The plaintiffs argued that such a claim was contrary to the concept of legitimate expectations.

I realise that this is sub judice and that it is completely inappropriate to go into the pros and cons of the case itself. The noble Baroness advised the Grand Committee last Thursday that, although the appeal was heard at the end of January, that we do not know the result yet. However, she was kind

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enough to say that the result was—she did not say “confidently”, but let me put the word in her mouth—expected “before Easter”. That is less than four weeks away. The purpose of my amendment is strongly to ask the Government: what is the hurry for the sake of four weeks?

This Government are not the only Government to have found themselves with a slightly bloody nose vis- -vis judgments from the courts and having to reverse what I would call political decisions. I really think that it might help the Government if they just held hard the matter for four weeks and waited on the result of the appeal; then, everyone will know exactly where they stand. I beg to move.

Moved, as an amendment to the Motion, at end to insert “but this House calls on Her Majesty’s Government to withdraw the draft order and not to lay an amended draft order until the Court of Appeal has issued its judgment in Congleton Borough Council and Shrewsbury & Atcham Borough Council v The Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government.”—(Lord Geddes.)

Lord Elton: My Lords, the word “consensus” brings me to my feet. The Government have told us on a number of occasions that they are seeking consensus, particularly in going forward to find the new composition of this House. They are conducting themselves in that regard as though consensus existed in favour of a proportion of elected people in this House, which does not exactly represent the views of the vast majority of the House. So, coloured by that experience, I look at this case and find—my noble friend has reminded me—that the Government were seeking to proceed by general consensus. They find that two-thirds of those consulted are against what is proposed, and yet they proceed as though consensus has been obtained. It is the same behaviour pattern.

The matter becomes more serious when one finds that one of the grounds of appeal was that all the links that the DCLG put on the website on this consultation went only to people in favour of it and not to those against. So there seems to be a determination to go ahead with policy in all areas as if consensus has been achieved when it has not. To do that ahead of a judgment that may overturn the decision that the Government are now trying to implement seems to be to take a considerable risk with their own popularity rating as well as to be a great waste of parliamentary time if the whole thing has to be done again. I therefore warmly support my noble friend.

Baroness Hollis of Heigham: My Lords, I hope for two reasons that noble Lords do not support the amendment. First, there has been no suggestion at any stage in dealing with any of these orders that consensus means the result of a plebiscite. Local government reorganisation, whether in 1974 or David Curry’s reorganisation in the 1990s, did not seek public opinion particularly strongly. The reason for that seems to me to be twofold. First, some of the authorities may have to have changed boundaries. Where people in, for example, a rural area may come within an expanded

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boundary, they enjoy urban services at a much lower cost because they are paying rural rates. In a completely non-judgmental way, I would point out that they are essentially piggy-backing on urban services for which they have not fully paid. To expect them to want to vote to come into such a system would be utopian at best. My second hesitation about talk about plebiscites and referendums is that consensus is not just about each individual council tax payer or each taxpayer, because local communities are made up of networks of interest—the churches, the faith groups and, above all, business—and it is business that in many areas has been driving this agenda for unitary authorities. As a result, you cannot pick up those community voices through a plebiscite.

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