HC Deb 26 October 1998 vol 318 cc4-5
3. Mr. Austin Mitchell (Great Grimsby)

When he expects the inquiry into financial regulation in the Channel Islands and the Isle of Man to report. [53509]

The Secretary of State for the Home Department (Mr. Jack Straw)

Mr. Andrew Edwards, who conducted the inquiry, delivered his report last week. It is being prepared for printing and will be published, in its entirety, for the House and the other place next month.

Mr. Mitchell

I welcome that speedy delivery. Will the Home Secretary also opt for speedy implementation of the Edwards report—by consent, if possible, but if necessary, by imposition—to clean up the financial acts in the Crown dependencies, particularly Jersey and Guernsey? The Edwards report found that regulators are promoting the development of financial services and business is being conducted in maximum secrecy with those involved repelling outside inquiries, as in the case of the Bank of Credit and Commerce International. There is no separation of powers on the islands, so those who benefit from financial services also have influence over the Executive, the legislature and the judicial and regulatory structures. Does the Home Secretary agree that such arrangements are totally unsuitable?

Mr. Straw

I understand my hon. Friend's strong views. He will appreciate that, as I read the report only late last night, I am not in a position to discuss its individual recommendations, and it would be wrong to do so before the report is presented to the House. Once the report is published in its entirety, there will be every opportunity for its contents to be discussed by Members of Parliament and responsible individuals in the islands.

Mr. Nick Hawkins (Surrey Heath)

The Home Secretary is aware of my concern about the way in which the inquiry was launched because he and I have corresponded about that. I am grateful to him for stating that his ministerial colleague in another place will meet me and the hon. Member for Tooting (Mr. Cox) to discuss the fact that, at the time of the inquiry's launch, the legislatures in the Channel Islands and the Isle of Man were considerably upset. Will he confirm that the concerns that I have raised with him in writing will be dealt with and that we will never again present the legislatures in overseas territories such as the Channel Islands and the Isle of Man with emergency announcements that completely bypass the normal structures and lead to their holding emergency debates on the possibility of secession?

Mr. Straw

We endeavour to maintain good relations with the islands, and I pay tribute to my noble and learned friend Lord Williams of Mostyn for the way in which he conducts those relations, day by day and week by week. The constitutional relationship between the islands and the Parliament of the United Kingdom was set out very clearly in the Kilbrandon report in the early 1970s. The action that I took in announcing and establishing the inquiry was fully consistent with the deliberations and conclusions about that relationship set out in Kilbrandon.