I am not sure that this goes entirely to address the specific question from the noble Lord, Lord Eatwell, but the Treasury can at any time, if it wants to, make recommendations to the court as to its strategy. Express provision is needed for the FPC to make such recommendations since the FPC is a creation of statute and its functions need to be set out in statute. The Treasury is not a creation of statute and has the ability under common law to provide advice to anyone. I ask the noble Lord to withdraw his amendment.

Lord Eatwell: I am sorry—once again, I really do not understand. New Section 9A(2) is absolutely clear that the Court of Directors must consult the FPC and the Treasury in developing a proper financial stability strategy. That is good—after all, this particular strategy is a very complex thing and it is going to involve direct intervention in the growth, or limitations of the growth, of credit in the economy. New Section 9A(3) states that the Financial Policy Committee may at any time make a recommendation, which is perfectly reasonable. It is doing its research, it comes up with an idea, it finds that something has been left out that is terribly important, and so it goes along to the Court of Directors to say that it really needs to consider it.

Surely the Treasury should have the symmetric right as from new Section 9A(2) to new Section 9A(3). Unless the noble Lord can point to somewhere else in the Bill where this right is available to the Treasury, then this is the point at which to include the Treasury’s ability to make a recommendation on its observations on changing circumstances. After all, it has the widest observation of changes in economic circumstances, both domestic and international. If the noble Lord

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can point to another part in the Bill which I am overlooking then I will certainly withdraw my amendment. At present, I am not convinced. I would be grateful if he could enlighten me.

Lord De Mauley: I understand the question from the noble Lord, Lord Eatwell, but I do not have an answer for him now. It is an important question so perhaps I may look into it and write to him.

Lord Eatwell: It would be churlish to say no. On that basis, I shall leave the question on the table and, for the moment, beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment 17 withdrawn.

Amendment 18

Moved by Lord Eatwell

18: Clause 3, page 2, line 35, leave out “3” and insert “1”

Lord Eatwell: All right, here we go again. I shall speak also to Amendment 19, which is in my name and that of my noble friend Lady Hayter. The important point here is that the requirement for the relevant period at which there is to be a review of the financial stability strategy is defined as three years. I would remind noble Lords that it is just three and a half years since the collapse of Lehman Brothers. Given everything that has happened and the way that the financial world has changed dramatically year by year in the past three and a half years, it seems quite unreasonable that the relevant period should be deemed to be three years. That is really much too long. Surely there should be an appropriate annual review of the strategy. That would provide an opportunity for the sort of consultation on the financial stability strategy that the noble Lord tells us that the Government are seeking, and on that annual basis we could really have a rolling, learning process.

Three years as the defined relevant period is surely much too lengthy. After all, companies are required to produce annual reports and to deposit them with Companies House. The purpose of that is to keep a continuous, rolling review of the company’s strategy and performance. It is an important part of transparency in a market system and of conveying information. Similarly, discussion of the development of the financial stability strategy should be done annually to enable appropriate consultation and an appropriate learning experience both for the Financial Policy Committee as it deals with these extremely difficult and changing circumstances and for the regulated community. I beg to move.

9.30 pm

Lord Northbrook: My Lords, as a historian, although I have some sympathy with the amendment of the noble Lord, Lord Eatwell, I feel that sometimes you need a little more perspective on these problems. Sometimes a gap of time can be useful, particularly

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when a crisis has had such complicated origins and effects which keep continuing. I would rather keep the three years as in the Bill.

Lord De Mauley: My Lords, Amendments 18 and 19 would require the court to review the Bank’s stability strategy annually. The extant legislation, the Bank of England Act, requires the court to determine and review the bank’s strategy in relation to the financial stability objective. That legislation does not set out how regularly the strategy should be reviewed. In practice, the court has recently revised the financial stability strategy annually. That is understandable given the sheer volume of legislative and other changes to the system of financial regulation in the past three or so years.

However, a strategy ought to be something for the long term. If the strategy is revised annually—ad infinitum, I contend—there is a risk that the short timeframe would lead to focus on short-term issues, reading more like what one might call a business plan than a genuine strategy. That is why new Section 9A will require the court in future to revise the Bank’s stability strategy at least every three years—more in line, I suggest, with a long-term strategy. Of course, if circumstances mean that the strategy must be changed in a shorter timeframe, new Section 9A allows the court the flexibility to revise the strategy earlier, as the noble Lord, Lord Eatwell, pointed out in an earlier debate.

We believe that a long-term financial strategy should provide vision, purpose and certainty for the Bank, its staff and the industry alike. That is why I believe that a three-year timeframe for a strategy is appropriate, so I ask the noble Lord to withdraw his Amendment 18.

Lord Eatwell: My Lords, once again, I thought that the noble Lord was making a better speech than me in support of the amendment. As he pointed out, the significant changes which have taken place over the past three years have required annual revision. Once one gets into a sequence of annual revisions, some of which can be looking back quite a long way—there is no reason why they should focus on the short-term—that creates an environment in which the regulated community knows what to expect every year, can consider the report, and if it says that the strategy is unchanged, that provides a great deal of comfort to the regulated community.

If there is no report, the regulated community is left hanging in the air, thinking, “Yes, it is all the same, but is something going on that is not quite so important but that they do not want to reveal to us?”. Surely, if there is a regular annual report, that provides a decision-making environment optimal for the financial services industry. Once one goes to three years and then is forced to do things once a year because so much is changing, think of the pessimism that one creates, think of the loss of certainty created in such circumstances. The industry wonders, “Why are they changing their three-year cycle? Why are they moving to one year? There must be something going on that we do not really know about. Perhaps something really bad is happening”.

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If one sticks to a steady one-year cycle, apart from emergencies—to which the noble Lord referred, and on which I entirely agree—that creates the comfort and certainty which the financial services industry really needs with respect to, let us remember, the utilisation of instruments, such as leverage collars and countercyclical provisioning, which will have a major impact on business plans and performance of the whole financial services industry.

I really would press the Government to take this under advisement and to think carefully about it. We will return to this on Report because leaving the period at three years is not the way to effectively manage confidence and expectations in an industry in which confidence and expectations are paramount in decision-making. In the mean time, I hope that the Government will take it away and think about it, and I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment 18 withdrawn.

Amendments 19 and 20 not moved.

Amendment 21

Moved by Lord McFall of Alcluith

21: Clause 3, page 3, line 14, leave out “4” and insert “6”

Lord McFall of Alcluith: My Lords, I beg to move this amendment in the name of the noble Baroness, Lady Noakes, and myself. It is quite a simple amendment. The principle behind it is that the external members of both the Monetary Policy Committee and the Financial Policy Committee should be in the majority, to counter groupthink within the Bank itself. The Treasury Select Committee had taken evidence on this and was very clear on it, as was the Joint Committee on the draft Bill, which recommended that there should be a majority of non-executives on the MPC. Both the Government and the Bank of England disagreed. The Bank of England said very clearly,

“Decisions about the relative numbers of internal and external members of the MPC and FPC are ultimately for Parliament.”.

If those decisions are for Parliament and there is a cross-party consensus on that, Parliament’s will should be observed in this case. The Bank made the point that,

“diluting internal membership to the point where the Committees could not be presented as distinctively Bank Committees would undermine the Government's purpose of asking the Bank to undertake these activities in the first place”.

If the Government feel, as they have said, that increasing the number of external members on the Monetary Policy Committee would make it unwieldy, given that that would take the number to 11, there is a simpler way of doing that. That is to ensure that there are two fewer members of the internal executive on the committee, which would result in the MPC’s internal members numbering four and its external members numbering five. When we talk about external members, I am very much aware of the experience that I had and that you can get groupthink with external members as well.

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The concept of diversity is really important and, as was mentioned in other debates in the Chamber today, we should be ensuring that there is representation of women on the committee. The MPC and the FPC have exclusively all-male boards. There are women who were at senior level at the Financial Services Authority and who have now left—for example, Margaret Cole, who was the managing director of its conduct business unit. She made a great contribution in ensuring that the industry listened to the Financial Services Authority, and she made a lot of real improvements on insider dealing. Sally Dewar left the authority too. These women have left, so that needs to be taken into consideration here as well.

One concept that has not been addressed in the financial services industry overall has been the consumer. I battled for years to get a consumer representative on the Financial Services Authority, and we eventually got one on it. Let us think on a wider front and keep in mind the words of the former Monetary Policy Committee member Professor Charles Goodhart, who said, as someone echoed today, that if you are excluding 50% of the population then you do not have the best talent pool. Let us have external members, eliminate groupthink and let the will of Parliament prevail.

Lord Flight: My Lords, my two amendments follow those in the name of the noble Lord, Lord McFall, and are essentially probing. They up the stakes from having six members appointed by the Chancellor of the Exchequer to having eight and require that all members of the FPC are,

“sufficiently independent of the Bank of England”.

To me, the issue is this: the FPC will be crucial. Its job is to detect things going wrong in the financial system and to direct institutions to put things right if they are in trouble. My view is that if the FPC is just part of the Bank of England, it runs the risk of being overdominated by what I will call the Bank of England establishment. It is important that FPC members are independent and, if they can be persuaded, may be people with central bank experience from other economies, who are the sort of people who will be good at the job for which they are chosen.

That gives rise to another issue which I have only just appreciated. The wording is slightly ambiguous. The implication is that members of the FPC must be directors of the Bank of England, members of the court. That seems to be slightly questionable. I am not sure that all members of the Monetary Policy Committee are members of the court. The FPC is parallel to the MPC in its role, and it would not be satisfactory if the Court of the Bank of England got to such a size that it was unwieldy. I question, therefore, and think it might be worth considering, whether there should be the requirement that FPC members are directors of the Bank of England. That does not seem to add anything.

However, the main point is to achieve a body of people that delivers the job it is there to do. It is not directly relevant, but I am mindful that the one banking system that entirely escaped all the troubles of 2007-09 was that of the Lebanon. The governor of the Central Bank of Lebanon, who is a very wise old bird and has seen many things before, spotted the trouble coming in terms of mortgage instruments and kept the banks of

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the Lebanon out of it all in good time. We want an FPC that, whatever the next problem is that faces us, will be capable of steering in that sort of direction. The wider the experience it has, the better.

Lord Hodgson of Astley Abbotts: My Lords, I do not wish to upset the noble Lord, Lord McFall, or my noble friend Lord Flight, but I urge my noble friend to resist these amendments. If we look at the objectives of the Financial Policy Committee, it needs to be a pretty focused, pretty small body. Having 14 people, or 12 people, depending on which of those amendments one is addressing, seems not to lead to the operational focus and directness that this particular policy committee will need. Having four external members will give a perfectly adequate external perspective; more would be more likely to confuse than to illuminate.

Lord Burns: I argued at Second Reading that it would be very useful if we were able to get some balance between the way the MPC is formed and behaves and the way that this new FPC works. The MPC has existed on the basis of four internal members, four external members and the governor, which is a total of nine. The other important principle that has always been emphasised is that each member of the committee had to act as an individual. They were not there to behave as a collective body; indeed, we have often seen, in the case of the internal members of the Bank of England, that they have voted in different ways. I would see great merit in carrying over the principles of the MPC into the FPC, which is that there should be a governor plus equal members, excluding the governor, from inside the Bank and outside the Bank.

I have two questions to add. The first is, does the Minister understand that the arrangement will be the same as for the MPC, which is that the members of this committee are being asked to behave as individuals, and to have individual, rather than collective, responsibility? That is important. The second question is that, as I read this, there is scope for all three deputy governors to be on this committee. Will all three deputy governors be on the MPC? I cannot remember what happens. If that were the case, it would change the balance of the Monetary Policy Committee. The membership includes the chief executive of the FCA. I can quite see that he would wish to be present at the meeting, but it does not seem to me that he needs to be a voting member of the FPC, given that his responsibilities are somewhat distant from the FPC’s main tasks.

My main point is about individual accountability as far as the people are concerned, not an expectation that the internal members would be acting as a group. As far as possible, we should hold some kind of symmetry between how the MPC and the FPC are set up, otherwise I can see that, over time, there would be constant pressure, with one saying, “Well, the other one is set up in a different way—shouldn’t we move to that?”.

9.45 pm

Baroness Hayter of Kentish Town: My Lords, we support Amendment 21, moved by my noble friend Lord McFall, and his comments on women’s representation. It was within this century that I joined

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the Board for Actuarial Standards, and I was the only woman there. It is extraordinary for some of us to find that we are still fighting for that goal. Not only did they put lots of women on the board after me, which I think was a good thing, but the new chair who took over yesterday is also a woman.

I shall speak particularly to the three amendments standing in the name of my noble friend Lord Eatwell and myself, which cover two particular issues: one is to correct the composition of the FPC itself and the other is to deal with pre-appointment hearings. On the composition of the FPC, we should first recall that the FPC’s work will impact throughout the economy, on the financial sector itself but also on businesses large and small, and on consumers. The latter categories need to have confidence that there is someone on the FPC who understands their interests and is speaking up for them. As Mark Hoban said in the other place, we need,

“more challenging voices in the board room, not fewer”,

and that must be equally the case with the FPC. So merit is a clear necessity but, as we said on an earlier amendment, so is a range of backgrounds, experience, interest and knowledge, whether from the wholesale markets, insurance, deposit-takers or others. So too, as was mentioned by my noble friend Lord McFall, is the voice of consumers, be they SMEs, businesses or indeed individual consumers. The FPC may have a role in loan-to-value decisions, for example, but the consideration of the FPC of this has to have input from those who are further down the food chain who will feel the impact of any change in policy.

On the question of pre-appointment hearings by the Treasury Select Committee, I argue that there is less market sensitivity over these than could possibly be the case even if we accept it in the case of the governor. There would be much less for these appointments. Indeed, when challenged on this very issue in the other place by Chris Leslie, Mr Hoban was quite unable to give any examples of where this might be an issue. Mr Tyrie made the point in the other place in April that as the Treasury Select Committee intends to hold hearings anyway, and if the person failed to find favour with the Treasury Select Committee, it would probably be pretty untenable for that person then to take up their appointment, because without the confidence of Parliament it is hard to see how they could do their job. It would therefore be sensible to engage with the Treasury Select Committee earlier in the appointment process.

The FPC has a vital public role to play. It acts on behalf of the nation—including Scotland, for the moment, so maybe we could have it there so long as it chooses to stay in the United Kingdom—so it needs the confidence of people’s elected representatives, which the Treasury Select Committee pre-appointment can of course help.

Lord Sassoon: My Lords—

Lord Hodgson of Astley Abbotts: Hear, hear!

Lord Sassoon: I need every cheer I can get at this hour of the evening—I am very grateful to my noble

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friend. Let me press on. This group deals with various aspects of FPC membership, and I will address in turn each of the amendments that have been moved.

Amendments 21 and 21A would fundamentally alter the balance of membership of the FPC by adding either two or four additional external members. Following the advice of my noble friend Lord Hodgson, I disagree with these amendments for three reasons. First, the ratio of the FPC between Bank executives and non-Bank members is six to five, which closely mirrors the MPC, where the ratio is five to four. In answer to the noble Lord, Lord Burns, I can confirm that as with the MPC, the FPC members will act as individuals, and that no change to the membership of the MPC is proposed in this. The MPC model has worked well, and is much admired around the world, and we should not fix something that is not broken.

Lord Flight: I thank the Minister for giving way. Is it six or seven members? By my account there are the governor and the two deputy governors, the chief executive and the two members appointed. That makes seven. The whole point of my private amendment, which suggested that there should be eight members, was to give a majority. Are all three deputy governors to be members?

Lord Sassoon: The three deputy governors are to be members—I count that up as a six to five ratio. It is not correct that the Bank has seven insiders. The Financial Conduct Authority is an independent regulator, which is emphatically not one of the Bank members. I doubted whether I could count to six at this hour, but it is six. However, I am grateful to my noble friend for getting that clarification.

Lord McFall of Alcluith: Would the Minister expand on that clarification? At present, the MPC contains two deputy governors, Charlie Bean and Paul Tucker, and there will be a third one, who will take the membership up to six. However, there are only four external members of the MPC at the moment: Ben Broadbent, David Miles, Adam Posen and Martin Weale.

Lord Sassoon: My Lords, no change is being proposed to the membership of the MPC, which will remain with five internal and four external members. The third—the new deputy governor—will not join the membership of the MPC. Let me press on.

Baroness Hayter of Kentish Town: I will not hold the Minister for too long. He has stressed, and it was stressed in the other House, the independence of the Financial Conduct Authority, but of course there is a veto—the financial regulator is able to override the Financial Conduct Authority. It is, therefore, independence up to a point.

Lord Sassoon: My Lords, I am sure that we will come back to that point later on in our discussions. I would, however, absolutely refute any idea that the FCA will not be independent of the Bank of England. It will be completely separately constituted; there will

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be a number of links, of which the noble Baroness mentions one, but I would not characterise that as in any way impinging on the independence of the FCA.

That was the first reason for rejecting these amendments. The second reason is that the change suggested would create a committee of 13 members, a committee so large that it could prove to be unwieldy, which could obstruct effective discussion and decision-making. There is a genuine risk that having too many external members without sufficient time or space within the meetings to put their points across effectively could undermine their ability to provide an external viewpoint and challenge, which I know the Committee wishes to see. In addition, of course, these points are even more relevant to the amendment proposed by my noble friend Lord Flight, which would increase the size of the FPC to 15 members, or 16, if one includes the Treasury representative.

Thirdly, I do not agree that the Bank executives on the FPC should be in a minority. Ultimately, both the MPC and the FPC must be Bank committees if we are to hold the Bank to account for the decisions that they make.

On the amendments that relate to the experience, knowledge and potential interests of external FPC members, I assure your Lordships’ House that the Chancellor will take great care to ensure that the independent members of the FPC are sufficiently qualified and experienced to provide diverse and effective expertise and challenge to the FPC’s decision-making. Finding strong candidates with breadth as well as depth of experience will clearly aid the committee in achieving its objectives.

Specifically on Amendment 24, the Government recognise the importance of the contribution of the different constituent parts of the UK to the financial services sector. The sector is often wrongly characterised as being confined to the City of London. This is plainly wrong. Regional issues and intelligence already form an important part of the Bank’s policy-making process. The Bank has 12 agencies in a national network across the United Kingdom that assess economic conditions in their regions. This feeds into the policy-making process.

On appointments to the FPC, the Bill already requires the Chancellor to be satisfied that the candidate has knowledge or experience that is likely to be relevant to the committee’s functions. This will include relevant experience within the financial services and regulatory sectors, not only within the constituent parts of the UK but internationally. All four of the current independent members of the interim FPC have experience in financial services as a practitioner or a regulator.

I should add that while we have been having this discussion, my Front Bench has had a ratio of two women to every man. Therefore, I certainly appreciate, as do the Government, the importance of appointments that recognise gender diversity. It will be an important consideration when deciding on external members of the FPC. The Government believe that there are certainly many credible and expert female candidates out there for permanent FPC appointments. We will continue to encourage women to apply for future vacancies on the FPC.

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The noble Lord mentioned the importance of having consumer views on the FPC. I agree that it will be vital. I accept that it took a long time with the FSA. It is fully recognised that we must have a broad spectrum of views, experiences and relevant knowledge if the FPC is to deliberate in an even-handed way. However, consistent with arguments over the size of the FPC, it will never be possible to ensure that all interested groups are represented on it at all times. We need to be clear about that.

On Amendment 27A, I reassure my noble friend Lord Flight that, in appointing external members, the Chancellor will be very mindful of the need for those people to offer a genuinely external and independent perspective. However, some familiarity with the workings of the central bank may well prove useful for external members, so I would not want completely to rule out individuals with some experience of working for the Bank becoming members of the FPC. For the sake of clarity, I add that there is no requirement for the FPC’s external members to be members of the court. One current member, Michael Cohrs, was subsequently appointed to the court, but there is no requirement for that to be the case. Nor is it the general case at the moment.

Amendments 26 and 27 deal with the role of the Treasury Committee in appointments to the FPC. As I have said at some length today—I will not labour the point—the Government strongly support the Treasury Committee’s role in holding hearings with individuals who have been appointed as members of the MPC, and now the FPC, before they take up their appointment. However, for the reasons that I gave earlier, those hearings should not take place before the appointment. In one case, just as with the appointment of the governor, the decision is that of Her Majesty on the advice of the Prime Minister and the Chancellor. In the case of the FPC and the MPC, it is rightly a decision for the Chancellor to take. There are risks in the rather febrile environment that we have had for a number of years now—risks that arise from market speculation about the balance of the committee and where the candidates may be coming from. So, yes, there should be pre-commencement hearings, but pre-appointment hearings would create the potential for danger and damage, which we should not entertain.

The Government place paramount importance on finding strong candidates for the FPC. I can reassure the Committee that future appointments of new independent members to the FPC will follow a process similar to that used to appoint MPC members, including an open, public competition. This, in addition to the pre-commencement hearings held by the Treasury Committee, will ensure that qualified and experienced candidates are appointed to the FPC, while avoiding the uncertainty that could arise from holding those hearings before the appointment is finalised.

On the basis of that short and focused debate, I ask the noble Lord, Lord McFall of Alcluith, to withdraw his amendment.

10 pm

Lord McFall of Alcluith: It may please the House to hear that I withdraw my amendment.

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Amendment 21 withdrawn.

Amendments 21A to 27A not moved.

Amendment 28

Moved by Lord Sassoon

28: Clause 3, page 3, line 28, leave out “court of directors” and insert “Oversight Committee”

Lord Eatwell: My Lords, I think the noble Lord said that he was going to take Amendment 28 away to consider it with Amendment 29. Surely he is not moving it now.

Lord Sassoon: My Lords, I have no recollection of saying that. I would like to move it formally.

Amendment 28 agreed.

Amendment 29

Tabled by Lord Eatwell

29: Clause 3, page 3, line 28, leave out “procedures” and insert “activities”

Lord Eatwell: In those circumstances, I think that I should reconsider. The noble Lord did say that he was going to take Amendment 28 away to consider the relationship between Amendments 28 and 29. I do not quite understand why he has now moved Amendment 28.

Lord Sassoon: What I said earlier was that of course I would consider whether there were any consistencies in drafting. I think that the noble Lord asked about a number of areas, and I said that I would look at them, but I certainly did not say that I would withdraw the amendment. I said that I would make sure that there was nothing that he had identified that created any difficulty through oversight in the drafting. Of course I will do that, and if we find anything wrong it can be corrected at a later stage. I certainly did not agree to take away Amendment 28.

Lord Eatwell: Then we look forward to hearing the corrections on Report.

Amendment 29 not moved.

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Amendments 30 and 31

Moved by Lord Sassoon

30: Clause 3, page 3, line 28, at end insert “Financial Policy”

31: Clause 3, page 3, leave out lines 30 and 31

Amendments 30 and 31 agreed.


Moved by Lord De Mauley

That the House do now resume.

Lord De Mauley: My Lords, I beg to move that the House do now resume.

Baroness Anelay of St Johns: My Lords, it may be convenient at this point if I explain why the House is resuming and will adjourn before we have reached the agreed target, which was agreed in the usual channels this morning, of Amendment 32. It has been agreed after constructive discussions in the usual channels this evening that we should finish as close to 10 o’clock as possible, even if, as I understand from my noble friend the Minister, the next group of amendments might take only a matter of a few minutes. But we came to an agreement, and I stick by my agreements, as I know that the noble Lord, Lord Eatwell, sticks by his—and that is valued.

The understanding between the usual channels is that, after two days in Committee, the opposition Chief Whip’s office will sit down and work with the Bill team to provide accurate guidance for Back-Benchers as to which subjects will be dealt with in the remaining days in Committee. Overall, all of us have a care to ensure that those on the Back Benches, who are playing an important part in this Bill, know which amendments may be taken on which days and roughly at what time of day, because that is how the House works well. I am aware from what my noble friends have said today that those who have worked in Committee today have taken care to give proper scrutiny to the Bill. I am sure that the discussions that we have had in the usual channels tonight will enable that to take place again in future days.

House resumed.

House adjourned at 10.06 pm.