|Previous Section||Back to Table of Contents||Lords Hansard Home Page|
Lord Elton: My Lords, are we acting on this on our own, or are other countries with Christian traditions and basic constitutions joining us in an approach on this subject and, indeed, elsewhere in the world where the persecution of Christians takes place?
Lord Malloch-Brown: My Lords, where the persecution of Christians takes place, we are very forthcoming in making our concerns known. The cases of a number of countries have been raised in this House over recent months, and I have been able to report to noble Lords about the steps that we are taking. We are not alone in the case of Nigeria or elsewhere in our concerns about this. Our European Union colleagues and others are equally anxious to make sure that Christians are not discriminated against. But let me say that we are anxious also to protect the rights of all religions.
The Financial Services Secretary to the Treasury (Lord Myners): My Lords, the Government are giving very careful consideration to the Parliamentary Ombudsmans report into the prudential regulation of Equitable Life. The Government expect to be in a position to respond to the report in an Oral Statement to the other place during the week commencing 12 January.
Lord Skelmersdale: My Lords, I am grateful to the noble Lord for that response. Over 1 million policyholders are still suffering from the collapse of Equitable Life and the Government have been sitting on the ombudsmans report for the last five months. On 10 July the Economic Secretary said that a Statement would be made in the autumn. In October Ministers in another place and here said shortly. On 5 November the Prime Minister said that it would happen before Christmas. Now we hear that it will be made only to another place during the week of 12 January. Why are the Government dithering again?
Lord Myners: My Lords, the Parliamentary Ombudsman has produced a very thorough report. The production of the report took over four years. That came after Lord Penroses report, which took two years. The Parliamentary Ombudsman tabled her report immediately before the Recess. This House would expect that report to receive due and careful attention. The report runs to 15 chapters; the issues involved are technical and complex. I would rather defend a delay in order to produce a correct and well considered report than a hurried response which had not received full and complete consideration.
Lord Newby: My Lords, does the Minister accept that many people find it bizarre that if you invest recklessly in an Icelandic bank you get a 100 per cent government bail-out immediately, but if you invested prudently in Equitable Life you have had nothing from the Government but prevarication and delay?
Lord Myners: My Lords, the Government will make a full Statement during the week of 12 January, and will do so having given this matter full and complete consideration. Further time is required to complete that process to the high standards that this House would expect from the Government.
Baroness Noakes: My Lords, the Ministers attitude simply does not wash. It took so long for the ombudsmans report to see the light of day because the Treasury wilfully used delaying tactics to ensure that it could not be released. It has now been released and we have been waiting since July for the Governments response. The Equitable Members Action Group estimates that around 15 people from the group who suffered die each day. That means that the delay since July has meant that 3,000 more people have died. The delay until January will mean another 500. Do the Government have no shame?
Lord Myners: My Lords, the Parliamentary Ombudsman has thanked the Government for their support during her inquiry. The incidents to which the noble Baroness referred date back to the early part of the past decade, and the major issues to which she drew attention occurred when another party was in government. It is not advisable for the noble Baroness, Lady Noakes, to talk of shame. If there is shame, it rests as much on the other side of the House.
Lord Lester of Herne Hill: My Lords, is it not a shame that parliamentarians such as myself cannot discover what happens in each government department to recommendations made by the parliamentary commissioner for administration when we ask Questions, because we are told that there is no centrally held information? Is the noble Lord aware that we then have to table Questions to each and every government department, when it would be perfectly easy and much cheaper if the Government got their act in order and had one central place that would tell the House how many recommendations there have been and what happened to them across the board?
Baroness Hollis of Heigham: My Lords, does my noble friend agree with the comments by Lord Penrose about the period before 1997that the society was
17 Dec 2008 : Column 836
Lord Oakeshott of Seagrove Bay: My Lords, I suggest to the noble Lord that we really should not be worrying about party games as to whether the Conservatives or Labour are at fault. We have a situation where many savers, in good faith, are greatly concerned. Will the noble Lord assure us that the Statement will be repeated in this place and that we will have an opportunity for proper scrutiny?
A Bill to amend the Geneva Conventions Act 1957 so as to give effect to the Protocol additional to the Geneva Conventions of 12 August 1949 done on 8 December 2005; and to amend the United Nations Personnel Act 1997 so as to give effect to the Optional Protocol to the Convention on the Safety of United Nations and Associated Personnel adopted by the General Assembly of the United Nations on 8 December 2005.
That, in the event of the Consolidated Fund Bill being brought from the Commons, Standing Order 47 (No two stages of a Bill to be taken on one day) be dispensed with tomorrow to allow it to be taken through its remaining stages that day.
That Standing Order 41 (Arrangement of the Order Paper) be dispensed with tomorrow to allow the Second Reading of the Banking Bill and the remaining stages of the Consolidated Fund Bill, if they are brought from the Commons, to be taken before the Motions in the name of the Chairman of Committees.
Lord Campbell of Alloway: My Lords, after reading Mondays Official Report, may I respectfully ask the noble Lord whether it is appropriate for the three compensation orders to be moved en bloc, given that the circumstances for each order are disparate?
The Financial Services Secretary to the Treasury (Lord Myners): My Lords, the House has already debated the compensation orders, and it is clear that there are very different circumstances pertaining to these three institutionshence the differences in the instructions on valuation for the calculation of compensation.
Clause 1, Schedules 1 and 2, Clauses 2 to 37, Schedule 3, Clauses 38 to 41, Schedule 4, Clauses 42 to 45, Schedule 5, Clauses 46 to 49, Schedule 6,
17 Dec 2008 : Column 839
Lord Shutt of Greetland: My Lords, although I have no doubt that the ordering is correct, I regret that I have to rise again on a procedural matter, given that this Bill is to run at the same time as the Local Democracy, Economic Development and Construction Bill. I submit that it is not for the convenience of the House that the two Bills will run together. Without wishing to detain the House further by disagreeing with this Motion, I hope that before the early days of January we can look further at delinking these Bills, so that Members who have a considerable interest in both Bills can take part in proceedings on them.
Lord Bassam of Brighton: My Lords, as ever, I am sympathetic to pleas from Members of your Lordships House to encourage maximum participation. The noble Lord, Lord Shutt, and I have discussed this issue. My understanding is that further representations have been made by the noble Lord and the Leader of the Liberal Democrats group. I am not entirely sure that we can absolutely satisfy the noble Lord, but we will endeavour to see what can be done to adjust the timetable to ensure that more participation in both Bills can be guaranteed for all Members of the House.
The Minister of State, Department of Energy and Climate Change & Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Lord Hunt of Kings Heath): My Lords, with the leave of the House I shall repeat a Statement made by my right honourable friend the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs in another place.
With permission, Mr Speaker, I would like to make a Statement on the Governments response to Sir Michael Pitts final report on the floods of summer 2007. Last weekends flooding in the south-west, in which two people very sadly died, reminds us of the ever-present risk we face and of the importance of Sir Michaels comprehensive and impressive report.
In his 92 recommendations published in June, Sir Michael identified a need to clarify who is responsible for what, to ensure that the public have all the information and guidance they need, to work with the essential services to assess risk and protect critical infrastructure, to have a clear recovery programme right from the start of any major emergency, and to establish the right legislative framework to tackle flooding.
I can tell the House that the Governments action plan being published today supports changes in response to all of his recommendations, but before setting out these changes I want to acknowledge the continuing effects of the flooding as a second Christmas approaches.
The fact that most people are now back home, thanks to a good deal of hard work, will be of little comfort to those families who are still out of their homes or living upstairs in them. Our thoughts are with them and their plight reminds us all just what a toll flooding takes on peoples lives and emotions and just how difficult it can be to get things going again. That is why, working with local authorities and the insurance industry, we will continue to do all we can to help. My right honourable friend the Minister for Local Government announced last month further help for these families.
We have taken action in the 18 months since the 2007 floods. The Environment Agency has spent £5 million on repairing defences that were damaged. Forty-nine flood-defence schemes have been completed, protecting 37,000 homes from Selby in Yorkshire to St Ives in Cornwall, and from West Bridgford in Nottingham to Worcester and Hexham where newly built defences successfully protected the town from significant flooding in September this year.
|Next Section||Back to Table of Contents||Lords Hansard Home Page|