HL Deb 03 July 1986 vol 477 cc1064-85

5. 32 p.m.

House again in Committee on Clause 1.

Lord Williams of Elvel moved Amendment No 6: Page 2 line 12 leave out (", primarily from their members,")

The noble Lord said: In moving this amendment, it may be convenient for the Committee if I speak also to Amendment No. 16.

These amendments reflect a discussion that took place on Second Reading of the Bill on the balance that should properly be struck between the retail deposits of building societies and the ability of building societies to raise funds on the wholesale market The Bill as drafted seems to be somewhat restrictive because we can envisage circumstances in the future—and perhaps in the present—where building societies will wish to have regard to the experience of the chairmen of the mortgage banks (if I may quote them in evidence) who raise money at long term in order to perform their proper function, which is lending at long term.

I believe that on Second Reading the noble Earl, Lord Selkirk, mentioned what he regarded as the miracle of intermediation—borrowing short and lending long In an exchange I had with the noble Lord, Lord Campbell of Croy, when he intervened in my speech on Second Reading, I tried to indicate the way that our thinking was going We believe that building societies will wish to have greater flexibility in going into the wholesale market. At the moment I understand that about 10 per cent. of their liabilities are in the wholesale market and the rest in the retail market. That is a figure which I read in a Building Societies Association brief and I take no responsibility for the figure.

The object of this exercise is to make sure that in future building societies should not necessarily be constrained from building up the proportion of their liabilities that come from the wholesale market and, inevitably, allowing to decline the proportion of liabilities which comes from the retail market That does not seem to us to be an undesirable development As I said, the chairmen of the mortgage banks go out of their way to match the maturities of their assets and the maturities of their liabilities.

By putting expression into Clause 1 that a major function of the commission shall be to ensure that the principal purpose of building societies remains that of raising funds primarily from their members would appear to inhibit building societies now and, perhaps more importantly, in the future from having access to the wholesale market. The wholesale market is now, and could easily be in the future, a source of funds of a longer maturity and greater stability so that we can get away from the problem that I believe has faced many building societies, and many banks, that the lending rate is determined by the intake of retail deposits.

I hope that the Government will accept the amendment. It gives the building societies greater freedom. I am advised that the Building Societies Association welcomes this greater flexibility. I hope that the Government will feel free to accept both the thrust of what I am saying and the amendment. I beg to move.

Lord Morris

I am most grateful to the noble Lord, Lord Williams of Elvel, for raising this point with his usual clarity, to which we have now become accustomed. I am concerned in only one respect. There is not so much to fear as the noble Lord suggested, because the word "primarily" has been included in the Bill. I may be totally wrong but my interpretation and construction of that is precisely as the clause says—that the societies should primarily raise funds from their members. That does not in any way stop them from borrowing on the wholesale market. I may be wrong, but that is my view.

Lord Denning

I hope the Committee will not accept this amendment. The clause expresses the real character of building societies as they have developed; namely, that their members should provide the money—I use the phrase, the "retail trade". That is the position historically and traditionally. The word "primarily" does not mean that it must be done solely in that regard. The word "primarily" allows them to borrow money on the wholesale market. It is not necessary to have this amendment.

Lord Houghton of Sowerby

I support my noble friend on this amendment and disagree with the noble and learned Lord, Lord Denning. It seems to me that the paragraph concerning the functions of the commission place it under an obligation to secure—the word "secure" is used—that the fund-raising activities of building societies shall be concentrated upon getting subscriptions or deposits from members. I doubt whether that takes full account of the possibility that at some time or other the state and the building societies may be in competition for personal savings.

The national savings movement was directed toward the savings of the mass of the people and the conditions were there to attract them. Building societies are in the same market and I think that more than once the building societies and the national savings movement have been in conflict. If building societies are to be regarded as having an obligation to the same people as the national savings to obtain their money, a build-up of competitive interest in personal savings may occur. More and more the building societies may have to turn to other sources of money for lending, because the demand for mortgages is unremitting in its intensity and likely to continue as increasingly the only option for securing accommo-dation is to obtain a mortgage to buy a house. I think that the demand for mortgages will increase and the more the private sector supplies housing needs, the greater the demand on building societies. The contraction of municipal housing schemes combined with the sale of council houses has increased the strain on the resources of the building societies.

I think that this problem of conflict of interest and competition for personal savings may either require building societies to retreat to some extent from their claim upon personal savings, or require the Government to retreat from their claim upon personal savings. The Government may have to borrow elsewhere what they cannot obtain from the people, and the building societies may have to do the same. There is not an unlimited reservoir of personal savings to be obtained by the two rivals who are competitors for it.

In the circumstances I think that one must not put an obligation upon the Building Societies Commission, to secure that the principal purpose of building societies remains that of raising (funds) primarily from their members". That may be an old fashioned idea about building societies and it may to some extent become impractical because the savings are not there.

What about the slump in the revenue of building societies that has occurred in the past few weeks? We are told that it means that any prospects of lower interest rates have flown out of the window. After all, they have only £500 million, or whatever sum it is, compared with much more in the previous months, and they have forward commitments of many millions. This may lead to the building societies having to go on the market. Indeed, some of them already are on the market and supplementing their income from other sources.

So I think that this is possibly an obsolete concept, not in the sense that it is not desirable but in the sense that it is unlikely that building societies can maintain their primary source of income when there are other competitors for the money. It makes no difference to intention, but it makes a difference to what I think is the sense of obligation placed upon the Building Societies Commission.

The Earl of Selkirk

It is only in recent times of course that building societies have gone to the wholesale market at all. This is a new development which I think came up about 10 or 15 years ago. I am bound to say that I am not absolutely certain what these words mean, but it is suggested—and I think the suggestion is right—that building societies should not lose their local contact with individual people. I do not agree with the noble Lord, Lord Houghton, that we have entirely to give way to the Government on personal savings. This is one of the ways that savings have been undertaken and it is liked by the public. It is merely a suggestion—or not very much more than that—that building societies should continue in this way and should not go into a purely City business, borrowing money as if they were joint stock companies and having vast take-overs or whatever. This is not the work of building societies. If building societies lost their local contact with the people throughout the country, I think that something of their character would disappear.

5.45 p.m.

Lord Brabazon of Tara

My Lords, the noble and learned Lord, Lord Denning, and my noble friend Lord Selkirk have reminded us that one of the principal distinguishing features of building societies has always been that they rely upon their members to raise funds. The mutual principle of building societies has always been the raising of money from members for lending to members. These amendments would remove that in one fell swoop. While this legislation seeks to equip building societies to compete effectively in the commercial environment of the late 1980s, the 1990s and beyond, it has never been the intention to dismantle the fundamental bases of their operations. Thus the Government seek to provide that, notwith-standing the new powers, the bulk of building society business will continue to be residential mortgages. The Bill preserves the mutual status of the societies and introduces a series of constitutional changes designed to make mutuality work better.

In due course we shall reach Clause 7 of the Bill and there the Committee will find that societies are being allowed to raise up to 20 per cent. of their money in the wholesale market, and indeed, by order that amount can be raised to up to 40 per cent. in due course. Nevertheless, we believe that the primary purpose should remain as it is, that of a mutual society. If, of course, the building society chooses to go further and further along the lines suggested, it has the option to convert to a plc under a clause which we shall come to later in the Bill.

It is rather interesting that in fact two Members on the other side of the Committee, the noble Lords, Lord Williams and Lord Barnett, have put down a Motion to oppose that clause standing part of the Bill. I always thought that the Opposition regarded themselves somewhat as the protectors of mutuality. Therefore I find these two particular amendments rather curious and I must join with other noble Lords in urging the Committee to reject them.

Lord Williams of Elvel

The noble Lord, Lord Brabazon, has introduced a rather aggressive attitude toward these amendments which certainly are designed to give building societies somewhat greater flexibility—together, I agree, with amendments to Clause 7 which we shall come to later. As my noble friend Lord Houghton has said, none of this reflects upon the mutuality of building societies. On this side we certainly wish building societies to continue to be mutual organisations. All we are trying to do is to envisage circumstances in the future in which building societies may wish to have rather greater recourse to the wholesale market than they have at present.

It seems to me that the Government are being slightly schizophrenic on the issue of mutuality. On the one hand they say that they wish to preserve mutuality, and on the other hand they say that they wish to allow building societies to convert themselves into fully-fledged, all-singing, all-dancing banks by conversion to plcs. We are trying to preserve the mutuality concept, but to allow within that concept greater access to wholesale markets than is allowed under the Bill as now drafted.

If I may say so, I am slightly disappointed in some of the reactions of those who are directors or chairmen of building societies in not welcoming what I am saying, which is not a great Labour Party theme or a great social crusade. I am trying to give greater flexibility to building societies than there is in the Bill and indeed, if I may say so, the Building Societies Association regards these amendments with a certain amount of sympathy. However, it seems that the Government have set their face against allowing building societies to expand in a way which I think would be sensible for them to do in the future. We shall read very carefully what the noble Lord has said, and in the meantime I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

On Question, Whether Clause 1 shall stand part of the Bill?

Lord Houghton of Sowerby

I should like to ask the noble Lord a question about subsection (7), which states: The Commission shall have power to do anything which is calculated to facilitate the discharge of its functions, or is incidental or conducive to their discharge". How literally are we to take those words in the Bill? What on earth do they mean? Does that offer the wide, wide world to the Building Societies Commission? It is a strange, loose subsection to have for the commission's general functions. Although I think that in many respects the Bill is well drafted, when one comes to such a clause it seems an extremely sloppy law-making process. May I suggest that the problem we were just discussing might be overcome if the word "secure" were re-examined? The commission's general functions are to promote, to administer and to advise, but subsection (6)(c) wishes to "secure". How can it secure? That is a matter that needs to be re-examined.

Lord Denning

With regard to subsection (7), the law will read it in any way. The clause is better as it stands.

Lord Brabazon of Tara

I think that the noble and learned Lord, Lord Denning, has probably answered the first question that the noble Lord, Lord Houghton, asked. I gather that it is a standard provision in legislation of this sort and has been given to all statutory bodies of this kind since the 19th century. I assure the noble Lord that there is nothing sinister in it.

I had better read what the noble Lord said about the word "secure", and if there is any reason for me to come back, I shall do so.

Clause 1 agreed to.

Lord Barnett moved Amendment No. 7: After Clause 1, insert the following new clause:

("Code of Practice

  1. .—(1) The Commission shall, after consultation with the Lord Chancellor and the Director-General of Fair Trading, 1069 prepare, publish and administer a code of practice with regard to the provision by building societies of conveyancing services.
  2. (2) The code of practice referred to in subsection (1) shall (inter alia) make provision for the manner in which and the standards to which conveyancing services shall be provided by building societies and shall in particular make provision for protecting persons for whom conveyancing services are provided by building societies from conflicts of interest that might otherwise arise in connection with the provision of such services.
  3. (3) Notwithstanding any practice rule made by the Council of the Law Society under section 31 of the Solicitors Act 1974, a building society operating in accordance with the code of practice referred to in subsection (1) above may, subject to such terms and conditions as the Commission may state, provide conveyancing services generally, including the provision of such services to persons to whom advances are made under section 10 of this Act.
  4. (4) A building society not operating in accordance with the code of practice referred to in subsection (1) above may provide conveyancing services, but only to persons other than those to whom advances are made under section 10 of this Act.").

The noble Lord said: The amendment provides a new clause which will allow building societies to do conveyancing for those taking out mortgages with them, but only if they operate in accordance with the code of practice as set out in the new clause. The Committee will recall the promise that was made to my honourable friend in another place, Mr. Austin Mitchell, that the Government would introduce legislation to enable that to take place. After consideration, the Government eventually decided that they could not do so because they felt that there would be a conflict of interest. That is their basic case against introducing the provision.

The case for allowing conveyancing to be done by building societies and banks is surely not disputed. First, consumers want it. In 1984, there was a survey and 81 per cent. of those interviewed said that they would be pleased to have conveyancing services offered to them in a one-stop-package type of housing service operation. Secondly, few can dispute that by doing that there would be greater freedom of choice for the consumer. Thirdly, I doubt whether it could be disputed that greater competition in this area would lead to lower costs. One recognises the conflict of interest argument. The new clause seeks to deal with it directly, although as I said on Second Reading I believe that the case is weak and applies more in theory than in practice.

The Building Societies Association has had some comments to make upon what the Law Society has been saying. It referred to the Law Society maintaining that there is an inherent and insuperable conflict where a lender's employed solicitor acts also for a borrower, and that only independent advice can avoid that. In its evidence to the Lord Chancellor's Department, the Law Society listed 12 areas of likely conflct between lenders and borrowers. They included the calculation of the rate of interest, provisions for early repayment, restrictive covenants in mortgages, third-party guarantees, secret profits, links between lenders and vendors and the purchase price of the property.

The implication was that the solicitor advises on those matters and that if a solicitor is acting simultaneously for the purchaser and for the building society, there is the inherent conflict of interest to which I have referred. The Building Societies Association refutes that argument, and does so very well. It made inquiries among building societies. They reveal that it is unknown for the terms of any mortgage offer by a building society to be rejected or even to be varied at a solicitor's instigation. That is not surprising because the terms of mortgage loans made by building societies are fairly standard and generally well known.

There is also the point that at present it is a building society's normal practice to employ the purchaser's solicitor to prepare the mortgage deed. No conflict of interest is seen in such cases although the Law Society argues that at that stage the negotiation between lender and purchaser is complete. In the opinion of the Building Societies Association, that is far too simplistic a vew to take. The solicitor is often not approached until after a house has effectively been purchased and the terms of the purchase and of the loan have been decided.

The Committee does not have to take what might be considered the biased view of the Building Societies Association or even the biased view of the Law Society—not that I dare to accuse the Law Society of taking a biased view. I know that irony does not come out in Hansard, but what I am saying will be clearly understood.

The Committee does not have to take my view on these matters. The question of conflct of interest was considered by the Director General of Fair Trading in a speech in June 1985. He said that he did not see any inherent or unsurmountable conflict of interest were a building society to provide conveyancing services to a purchaser who is also a borrower of that society in that both have a common interest in ensuring that there is a good title. He suggsted that if a lawyer is offering independent advice, that would seem to be more a selling point than grounds for disallowing a building society-employed solicitor from providing basic conveyancing services.

Professor Farrand, who chaired the Government's inquiry on conveyancing services, commented that although solicitors can advice on various matters—for example, relating to the mortgage term—that does not mean that he either does advise or should advise. Professor Farrand commented that what legal authority there was, was that solicitors were under no obligation to give such advice. Those are not my views or those of the building societies but the views of independent people in this field.

In fairness to the Law Society, I feel that I should deal with some of the points that it has raised. It has a brief. I do not know whether it was a mistake, but the Law Society kindly sent me a copy. Perhaps I may comment briefly on some of the points in the brief. First, it says among other things in relation to the background of the proposition: Potential clients will often shop around asking both about the service and about the price".

Anyone who knows about these matters will know that it is very rare for anybody buying a house to ask about the service that they will receive in the conveyance. Their primary objective is whether they can have it done cheaper. They do not normally say to a solicitor, "Are you going to see to it that I get a proper title?" I should have thought that they naturally assume that the solicitor acting for them, whether employed by a building society or not, would do the job for which he or she was being paid.

The Law Society go on to ask why the Government is now legislating, and they answer the question in this way. It can hardly be with the aim of forcing solicitors to be more competitive. The competition could not be more lively. The only reason is to fulfil the unwise commitment given to Mr. Mitchell".

At least the Law Society have no doubt about the commitment given by the Government to my friend in another place about carrying out the pledge to which they had committed themselves. However, I leave that on one side and say that the new clause, which I am sure should be accepted by anyone considering what we propose, would indeed inevitably and obviously increase the level of competition if building societies were enabled, without any conflict of interest, to carry out a one-step housing service for people who wish not simply to borrow money from them but also to buy a house and generally use the kinds of service I would have thought most people would want to see carried out.

The Law Society, in this brief which I have found very helpful, go on to ask why the institutions want to get hold of the conveyancing market. They answer the question in this way. Building societies are no longer the friendly non-profit-making institutions they once were. They are now highly competitive and aggressive".

I am not sure whether that is intended to be a derogatory comment but this Committee must take that as I have read it. They go on to say, It is clear that the aim of an institutionally owned estate agency conveyancing department will be to be an outlet for the sale of the financial services of that institution. A 'Woolifax' Building Society estate agent or conveyancer will be expected to make profits for the Woolifax by ensuring that house buyers take out mortgages with the Woolifax, that the Woolifax earns commission on the insurance policies placed by the buyer, etc.

One is bound to ask: is it really thought that solicitors acting for a building society or a bank would be any less professional in the way they carried out their duties than they are now in giving what is called independent professional advice? The fact is that, as we all know, solicitors acting independently frequently also act for building societies at the same time. Nobody has ever suggested that that is an inherent conflict of interest that does great damage to potential purchasers of houses or those seeking to take out mortgages. Therefore I do not think the argument holds up.

Finally, perhaps I may quote again from the Law Society's brief under the heading "The threat to the independence of lawyers". It would be very dangerous for me, in this Committee with more than one or two very distinguished lawyers, to propose anything that could or would be deemed to be a threat to the independence of lawyers. With the eye of the noble and learned Lord, Lord Denning, upon me, I should be even less likely to propose any such threat; but the fact is that the Law Society say, The consumer would have little protection left. The voice of the independent professional who can dispassionately advise clients on the merits of major transactions affecting house buyers would be effectively silenced".

We all receive representations on many things, and issues and subjects; but I think it is fair to say that that is stretching it a bit. The plain fact is that if somebody is seeking to buy a house and wants dispassionate financial advice, with the greatest possible respect to the lawyers in your Lordships' House they should not be going to lawyers.

The Lord Chancellor

I certainly would.

Lord Barnett

If that is the advice that the noble and learned Lord the Lord Chancellor seeks to give, then I am bound to say that my experience of obtaining financial advice would make me feel I would rather find it elsewhere. I do not say that as a legal judgment.

The Lord Chancellor

If the noble Lord reflects for a moment that if he borrowed money on the security of a house, he would lose the house and his money if things went wrong, he might come to a rather less superficial view.

Lord Barnett

With the greatest possible respect, if the noble and learned Lord had heard what I said earlier, he would realise that what I was saying was that professional solicitors acting for a house buyer, whether that buyer is purchasing through an independent solicitor or through a building society, would give precisely that security without the matter necessarily involving a conflict of interest. That was what I was arguing.

The Lord Chancellor

I heard very clearly what the noble Lord was saying. What he did not reflect upon was what would happen to him if he entered into an unwise mortgage and failed to keep up his instalments. The number of repossessions is rather high this year.

Lord Barnett

With the greatest possible respect to the noble and learned Lord, this has nothing whatever to do with the new clause I am moving. I hesitate to argue with the noble and learned Lord on legal matters, but he has begun to widen the area. Although I do not wish to trespass upon any ruling the Chairman might make about widening the discussion, what the noble and learned Lord says now has nothing whatever to do with the clause I am moving. I am simply attempting to make a case which, strangely enough, the noble and learned Lord's Government agrees with, and that is that we should improve competition wherever possible.

As I have said, and as the Law Society concede, it was the original intention of the Government, including the Solicitor-General in another place, that they should introduce a new clause almost identical to the one which I am now moving, because they gave a firm pledge and commitment to my right honourable friend in another place. It was only the conflict of interest argument which stopped the introduction of that, and not the wider area that the noble and learned Lord the Lord Chancellor now seeks to introduce. The plain fact is, as I have indicated and as the building society movement have made quite clear, there is no threat to the independence of lawyers and no conflict of interest if we have a code of practice along the lines of the clause I am moving, and I hope the Committee will accept that.

Lord Denning

Perhaps I may say that in this case I regret very much that a Government gave that promise. It seems to me that, on principle, when you have a borrower and a lender dealing in a conveyancing matter the parties should be represented by different solicitors. Indeed, it has often happened that trouble arises in the courts when both parties have had the same solicitor. Frequently it is done to save expense but time after time judges experienced in these matters have indicated that there ought to be separate representation for the the parties concerned. This has been recommended time after time for the simple reason that there is an inevitable conflict of interest arising. So on principle I would hope that there would not be a single conveyancing system, so to speak, by the building society or bank or any institution of that kind.

I will also go one step further. What is the whole object of this amendment? Is it to save money or to let the building societies be more competitive? Look at the other expenses of estate agents, insurance firms and the like. We are doing nothing whatever in regard to those expenses, and I think that the expense of having separate solicitors to do conveyancing is really a quite small part of the whole expense. Therefore, I would be against conveyancing being done generally by or through building societies or banks. However, the promise has been given. Let it be done, if needs be, by a later clause in the Bill; namely, regulations very carefully and strictly made by and on behalf of the committee. I am against the amendment.

Lord Templeman

This amendment, together with later amendments—I have in mind Amendment No. 105 and Amendments Nos. 247 to 264—raise the same question of what limitation should be placed on a building society that undertakes conveyancing and estate agency work. There should be no more limitations than are necessary in the interests of the public. But two questions arise. There are two interests to protect. The first is the interest of the public in getting the best advice and getting impartial advice. The second interest that I still put forward, notwith-standing the remarks of the noble Lord, Lord Barnett, is that it is in the public interest that the solicitors' profession should be protected not against competition but against unfair competition. It is to those two principles that I address my remarks.

There is a real problem of conflict of interest. It is not simply something dreamt up by chancery lawyers. It is something that has evolved as a matter of practice. It is the question of fairness. I shall give the Committee an illustration. Let us suppose that there are no restrictions at all on the building society. Let us suppose that the building society has a borrower who cannot keeep up with his instalments. The building society is very kind to him and does its best, but he simply cannot keep up with the instalments. The building society says, "We think that you will simply have to sell the house". He agrees and asks the building society whether it will sell the house for him. It says, "Oh, no. We are bound to tell you that that is very depreciatory. You had better sell it". But the society goes on to say, "We do have an estate agent who is a subsidiary. We suggest that you go to him and he will do his best". No doubt he will. His charges will be the usual charges of 2.5 per cent. The vendor goes to the estate agent, and they agree on a price. In walks a purchaser. The same estate agent says, "This is a very desirable property. It is on offer at £100,000". That is enough to clear the building society mortgage and to give the first borrower something in his pocket. Acting perfectly properly, the estate agent asks the purchaser, "Would you like to buy this property? By the way, if you do, our parent company is a building society. We shall be able to arrange a loan for you. One favourite method is by taking out an endowment policy. Our society—we make no bones about it—will get a commission on the endowment policy. What is more, we will carry out all the conveyancing for you at a cost of £400".

I venture to suggest that whatever the probity of building societies, there must be some limitation. That kind of conduct must be forbidden. One cannot have a spider at the centre of a web, however well meaning a spider and however able it is in its affairs, pulling on every strand of the web, acting for vendor and purchaser, borrower and lender, and acting also as an estate agency as well as dealing with conveyancing and insurance. There must be some limitation. I should like to explain those limitations. It seems to me that the amendments proposed by the noble Lord, Lord Foot, Amendments Nos. 247 to 264, are sensible amendments that will allow the building societies to compete but will prevent the societies being in the conflict of interest position that I have outlined.

There is another factor to be taken into account from the point of view of the borrower and the lender. Nowadays one has to pay £80,000 for a house that was built at a cost of £800. It is the most important financial deal that any man enters upon. In most cases a purchaser or vendor will be well advised to consult a solicitor. One does not want to see solicitors thrown out of the window and everything taken over by building societies. The solicitor is about the only person who can say, "Do you really want to buy this house?", and "How will you get the money?" I know that the noble Lord says that a solicitor will act for a building society. Of course, he does. But he acts for several building societies. He is not wedded to one. Before acting for the building society on the conveyancing he sits down and considers with his client the pros and cons of whether to buy, how much to pay and everything else. He does more than that. He considers his client's matrimonial affairs, whether the property should be in the name of the wife, and whether the man should make a will. A good solicitor is under a duty to act as a father confessor and friend to his client. A good solicitor is worth his weight in gold. One does not want to see him eliminated altogether. The noble Lord looks cynical—

Lord Barnett


6.15 p.m.

Lord Templeman

I am not here to defend each and every solicitor. There are 45,000 solicitors scattered throughout England, most of them in firms of three, four or five. Those in the country know the whole of the country. They know the people who live there and those they are dealing with. They know how to advise old ladies; they know how to advise the spendthrift. That is not the task of a building society. The building society is there to lend and to borrow. It is kind and gives certain advice. But it is not there to give the kind of family advice that a solicitor gives. It would be a very great pity if, in the interests of competition, conveyancing was taken over largely by building societies and small firms of solicitors ceased to be consulted, ceased to have that practice to the extent that they were put in great straits and ceased to carry out the services they perform now.

There is bound to be unfair competition in a certain way between building societies and solicitors. It is competition that solicitors must put up with. It is unfair in so far as the building societies have millions and millions of capital. The building society can afford to tell someone that it can do his conveyancing cheaply. The building society can afford to advertise. Most of the two-men or three-men solicitors do not possess the capital to do that. They cannot stand up to, or at least they will have difficulty in standing up to, the building society competition. I am not asking for this competition to be ruled out. It is something that Government and Parliament in their wisdom have said shall take place. So solicitors have to bear that competition. It must not, however, be unfair competition. When solicitors practise they are operating under certain rules in respect of accounts and behaviour. All those rules should be imposed on the building societies so that they are not in any better position than the solicitor. On reaching Amendment No. 105 and Amendments Nos. 247 to 264 the Committee will find that these provide that there shall be accorded to building societies the same limitations as those imposed on solicitors. The overriding limitation is that building societies should not be put into the kind of conflict of interest situation that I have mentioned.

I beg the noble Lord, Lord Barnett, to believe that this is not a plea. I have no brief on behalf of solicitors. I have never been a solicitor. I know a lot about solicitors. I have indulged in a good deal of criticism of solicitors. I have criticised more solicitors than I have building societies. I ask the noble Lord to believe that this is not a professional money-grabbing series of amendments. This is a very serious problem that we shall fudge at our peril. At the end of the day I should like to see solicitors still able to flourish, giving conveyancing advice and every other advice, and competing with building societies. I should, however, like to see building societies restrained from competing where there is a conflict of interest that operates against the interests of the public and where they might otherwise have an advantage over solicitors.

I make those observations because, owing to public and other duties, I shall be unable to stay to take part in the debates on all the amendments put forward by the noble Lord, Lord Foot. I pray earnestly that the Minister and the noble and learned Lord the Lord Chancellor, will not have regard to the question, "Shall we beat the solicitors over the head? Is this a favourable opportunity for getting the legal profession to yield up one of its restrictive practices?" I know that they will appreciate that we are not in that field at all. We are in the field of safety for the public and fairness to the solicitors' profession.

Lord Campbell of Croy

I intervene very briefly to make one point only and not to enter into the arguments that have been put so clearly on this amendment. I want to ask the noble Lord, Lord Barnett, whether he realises that this new clause is drafted to apply to England and Wales and not to Scotland, with its references to the Lord Chancellor, which would of course be the Secretary of State for Scotland where Scotland is concerned, and with its references to the Law Society, which would be the Law Society for Scotland.

There is an important fact relating to this amendment and it is a complicating one. In Scotland, there are not many estate agents and it is firms of solicitors who mostly carry out the tasks, such as advertising property and so on, which are done south of the Border by estate agents. That is a complicating factor and I simply wanted to register that what is being said about this clause would have different applications north of the Border.

Lord Jacques

For too long, consumers have suffered from the monopoly charges inflicted by solicitors for conveyancing—charges based upon the value of the property and not upon the work that is being done. The only excuse we have had for this charge in recent years is that it creates a fund from which there can be a cost subsidy to other work done by the solicitors. That may be so, but that is not the way in which the public should be charged.

What we need is a service for which the public are charged according to the value of the work which is done, and not according to the value of the property; work in which there is some competition to ensure that we get that. I believe that we can get that, or at least take a first step, by giving a power of conveyancing to building societies under proper control; and this amendment gives that kind of control. The conflict of interest in conveyancing is between buyer and seller, not so much between buyer and mortgagee. They are on the same side. In my opinion, that plea of conflict of interest is to a considerable extent an excuse and there is no great merit in it.

Lord Morris

With the greatest respect to the noble Lord, Lord Jacques, in this regard he is miles out of date. This practice was changed some years ago. I intervene at this stage, not because I support this amendment, for in many respects it has considerable lack of merit, but because I wish to support the noble and learned Lord, Lord Templeman, in his vigorous and most effective argument in regard to conflict of interest, when I come to my rather more draconian amendment at Schedule 8.

But I cannot fail to mention the point made by the noble Lord, Lord Barnett. With respect, I think he has missed the fundamental point here. He was quite right to point out that very often the purchaser's solicitor acts on behalf of the mortgage society on the acquisition of a property. But the point is that it is the mortgage society agreeing to use the purchaser's solicitor, and not the purchaser using the mortgage society's solicitor.

There is the very important point here that the interest of the lender is very much more restricted than the potential interest of the purchaser of the property.

The interest of the lender of the funds is in the value and in security for the loan. The interest of the purchaser goes a great deal wider than that; for instance, and not least, the contract of sale itself in which the lender has no interest whatsoever. I do not want to develop the argument any more, but it is important to point that out to the noble Lord.

Lord Brabazon of Tara

We have had an interesting debate on this subject, which was debated at length in another place during the Committee stage. May I first say that my noble and learned friend the Lord Chancellor would have very much liked to reply to this debate, but owning to state duties in connection with the visit of the President of the Federal Republic of Germany he may not be able to stay until the end of it.

May I first deal with the suggestion of the noble Lord, Lord Barnett, that the Government have breached a commitment made to his honourable friend Mr. Mitchell? That is not the case. In February 1984, the Solicitor-General said in a Written Answer to Mr. Mitchell: we will shortly issue a Consultation Paper on how best to ensure that conflicts of interest and anti-competitive practices do not arise when solicitors employed by banks, building societies and other organisations are permitted to undertake conveyancing for their employers' customers. We hope to bring forward legislation committing building societies to offer this service next Session. That quote was from Hansard of another place for 17th February 1984, col. 347.

That answer merely indicates the intention to proceed if the conflicts of interest could be avoided. It did not commit the Government to the introduction of a conveyancing free-for-all, come what may. What came out of that consultation was that there were genuine worries about the conflicts of interest that might arise. We paid careful heed to these comments and concluded that it would not at present be appropriate to allow institutions to offer conveyancing services to customers to whom they were also providing a loan.

Our consultations with the various interested parties did not produce any solutions. It would have been dishonourable to ignore these findings and to allow something which was so clearly against the public interest. Our commitment was to examine the possibility, in the hope that we could permit institutions to offer these services to their borrowers. That has not yet proved possible.

It has further been suggested that this Government are trying to protect the solicitors' profession against the prevailing spirit of competition. This Government's record of encouraging competition is second to none. Last Session's Administration of Justice Act brought forward the provisions needed to implement the Farrand Committee's recommendations on licensed conveyancers. The Council for Licensed Conveyancers has been meeting regularly and I understand it is making good progress.

This Bill will permit not merely building societies but banks, other financial institutions, subsidiary companies and estate agents to offer conveyancing services. Solicitors are now advertising their services and are competing vigorously with each other; and I say to the noble Lord, Lord Jacques, in particular, that the cost of conveyancing has dropped by one-third since this Government came into office. Where is the evidence to suggest that we are protecting the cosy monopolies of the solicitors' profession?

The Government are concerned, however, to protect the consumer from any adverse effects of this new spirit of competition. There must be safeguards which will be included in the recognition rules made under Schedule 21. Naturally my noble and learned friend the Lord Chancellor will consider what those safeguards must be, and ensure that they do not necessarily restrict competition while still protecting the interest of the consumer.

This new clause requires the commission, after consultation with the Lord Chancellor and the Director General of Fair Trading, to prepare, publish and administer a code of practice to cover the provision of conveyancing services by building societies. The chairman of the Building Societies Association has provided my noble and learned friend with a draft code of practice. The association suggests that this would be one way out of the difficulty. The code is clearly the product of much useful and conscientious thought.

However, my noble and learned friend said, in his reply to Mr. Cox on 17th May, that the Government are not satisfied that it meets our concerns. It sets out procedures that should be followed where there is a conflict and distinguishes between major and minor conflicts and precribes different procedures for each It is not clear when a conflict is minor and when it is major. Moreover, I doubt that it is right to leave the client without impartial advice in this situation. I he procedures envisaged will clearly lead to additional confusion and delay.

That is not to say, however, that no code will overcome the problem. If it can be overcome in the future—and, as my noble and learned friend the Lord Chancellor has said in his letter, he is always willing to consider further revisions—then a code could be incorporated easily within the provisions of Schedule 21. Noble Lords will have noted that Schedule 21 is drafted in wide and flexible terms. Recognition rules may easily be altered to include a code, should we be persuaded that it resolves our particular problem. This new clause is therefore unnecessary and inappropriate to institutions other than building societies. In the light of all that I have said and of the debate that has taken place I invite the noble Lord not to press the new clause.

6.30 p.m.

Lord Barnett

I say at once that I appreciate and understand why the noble and learned Lord the Lord Chancellor was unable to speak in the debate. I am glad that it did not prevent him intervening occasionally. It made me feel that I was back in another place. If I may say so, in another place I debated with lawyers long before they had reached the distinguished stage in their careers that they have reached when they arrive in this place. But I have enjoyed both.

I shall come in a moment to some of the points made by others in this brief debate. Let me say at once to the noble Lord, Lord Brabazon, that right at the outset of my remarks I conceded that, while the Government had been accused by some of a breach of faith—and, indeed, the Law Society sort of conceded that the commitment had been given—they did not introduce what they had implied at least to my honourable friend because they perfectly genuinely felt that they could not overcome the problem of conflict of interest. Indeed, for almost the whole of my remarks I dwelt on the issue of conflict of interest, on which it seems that we shall have to disagree.

Let me come right away to the points made by the noble and learned Lords, Lord Denning and Lord Templeman. It is difficult to have to disagree with two such distinguished lawyers, but their experience must be very different from that of the average purchaser of a small house, with the greatest possible respect to them. The noble and learned Lord, Lord Denning, said that there is normally a need for a separate solicitor. In most cases I go along with that all the way. When there is a vendor and a purchaser in commercial transactions of any kind I should never want to see a solicitor acting for both sides. But to say what he said is totally to misunderstand what happens today in the purchase of houses.

It is the perfectly normal, proper and ethical practice that a building society employs the purchaser's solicitor to prepare the mortgage deed. That is what happens in probably the vast majority of cases. That was conceded by the noble Lord, Lord Morris, who of course disagreed with me for different reasons. But there is no doubt that in that case solicitors act for both sides. As my noble friend Lord Jacques said, they do not act for the vendor and purchaser. That is an entirely different matter. Of course then there should be two separate solicitors. But we are not talking about that. We are talking about whether a building society should be able to act for the purchaser of a house when he takes out a mortgage—to draw up a mortgage deed and the rest.

The noble and learned Lord, Lord Templeman, dwelt upon the independence of solicitors. I was very moved by what he said. I know a lot of good family advisers. They are personal friends and have acted for me. But with the greatest respect to somebody as learned as the noble and learned Lord, the person who undertakes a legal conveyance does not sit at a table and ask, "Do you have a marriage problem? What about your children? How do you feel about this, that and the other?" A solicitor's clerk carries out the conveyancing. I doubt whether for one moment he ever contemplates discussing with the client his family problems. The client would probably not want to discuss them with him. Both noble and learned Lords were talking about something entirely different from what happens in the real world.

The Lord Chancellor

In the light of the noble Lord's reference to my difficulties, which have been acute because of the date on which the debate takes place, I thank him for giving way. Once the terms of the loan are agreed and the terms of the mortgage drawn up, the interests of the purchaser and of the proposed mortgagee are identical. At that stage they are concerned only with whether the vendor of the house, or whatever, can convey a good title. That has never been the point and that has never been the difficulty.

The difficulty consists in the fact that, if a person wants to borrow a sum of, say, £80,000, he requires advice, first of all, as to whether his financial circumstances make it appropriate; and it does not matter to the building society, which has a good security on the house, if the purchaser loses it. He has to inquire as to whether a building society, and if so which building society, is the appropriate lender, or whether the bank or his father-in-law would lend money on more favourable terms. It is at that stage that the conflict of interest is liable to exist. If the noble Lord would only concentrate his mind on the point, he might get somewhere.

Lord Barnett

With the greatest respect to the noble and learned Lord, he is attempting to draw us into an area which does not apply in the real world. What happens in practice is not what he would have us believe. Indeed, if he comes to my part of the world, he will not find many people seeking to borrow £80,000 or anything remotely like it.

If we are concerned with good title, it is at least as much in the interests of the building society as it is of the purchaser to ensure that there is a good title. Those who oppose the new clause, through the use of legal language, of which I am innocent, wish to convince me that I should drop the amendment because there would be a conflict of interest if a solicitor acted for both the building society and the borrower. I am not talking about the purchaser and the vendor, as I said, because there there would be separate solicitors—although I have known cases where there have not been; but I do not agree with that. We are talking about a very narrow area. Given the code of practice in the new clause and the Government's desire to extend competition as far as possible, I am surprised that they will not accept the new clause. In those circumstances I have no choice but to advise noble Lords not only on this side of the Committee but on the other side as well to support the new clause.

6.38 p.m.

On Question, Whether the said amendment (No. 7) shall be agreed to?

Their Lordships divided: Contents, 42; Not-Contents, 94.

Ardwick, L. Irving of Dartford, L.
Barnett, L. Jacques, L.
Birk, B. John-Mackie, L.
Boston of Faversham, L. Kaldor, L.
Brockway, L. Llewelyn-Davies of Hastoe, B.
Carmichael of Kelvingrove, L. Lockwood, B.
David, B. [Teller.] Longford, E.
Dean of Beswick, L. Lovell-Davis, L.
Ennals, L. Morton of Shuna, L.
Ewart-Biggs, B. Mulley, L.
Falkender, B. Nicol, B.
Gallacher, L. Oram, L.
Graham of Edmonton, L. Parry, L.
Hatch of Lusby, L. Pitt of Hampstead, L.
Houghton of Sowerby, L. Ponsonby of Shulbrede, L.
Howie of Troon, L. [Teller.]
Ross of Marnock, L. Turner of Camden, B.
Scanlon, L. Underhill, L.
Sefton of Garston, L. Wallace of Coslany, L.
Serota, B. Wells-Pestell, L.
Stoddart of Swindon, L. Williams of Elvel, L.
Strabolgi, L.
Airedale, L. Long, V. [Teller.]
Allenby of Megiddo, V. Lucas of Chilworth, L.
Alport, L. Lyell, L.
Ampthill, L. McFadzean, L.
Aylestone, L. Macleod of Borve, B.
Beloff, L. McNair, L.
Belstead, L. Mancroft, L.
Bessborough, E. Merrivale, L.
Brabazon of Tara, L. Mersey, V.
Brentford, V. Morris, L.
Broadbridge, L. Munster, E.
Brougham and Vaux, L. Murton of Lindisfarne, L.
Broxbourne, L. Norfolk, D.
Caithness, E. Onslow, E.
Cameron of Lochbroom, L. Pender, L.
Campbell of Alloway, L. Plummer of
Campbell of Croy, L. St. Marylebone, L.
Carnock, L. Portland, D.
Colville of Culross, V. Rankeillour, L.
Colwyn, L. Reigate, L.
Craigavon, V. Renton, L.
Crawshaw of Aintree, L. Renwick, L.
Davidson, V. Ridley, V.
Denning, L. St. John of Bletso, L.
Diamond, L. Sandford, L.
Dundee, E. Selkirk, E.
Elliot of Harwood, B. Shrewsbury, E.
Elton, L. Shuttleworth, L.
Faithfull, B. Skelmersdale, L.
Ferrier, L. Soames, L.
Foot, L. Strathclyde, L.
Fraser of Kilmorack, L. Stathcona and
Gardner of Parkes, B. Mount Royal, L.
Gray of Contin, L. Sudeley, L.
Grey, E. Swansea, L.
Hailsham of Saint Swinfen, L.
Marylebone, L. Swinton, E. [Teller.]
Halsbury, E. Templeman, L.
Hanworth, V. Thorneycroft, L.
Harris of Greenwich, L. Trenchard, V.
Henley, L. Trumpington, B.
Hooper, B. Ullswater, V.
Hylton-Foster, B. Vaux of Harrowden, L.
Kilmarnock. L. Vivian, L.
King of Wartnaby, L. Whitelaw, V.
Lane-Fox, B. Young, B.
Lawrence, L. Young of Graffham, L.
Layton, L. Zouche of Haryngworth, L.
Lindsey of Abingdon, E.

Resolved in the negative, and amendment disagreed to accordingly.

6.45 p.m.

Schedule 1 [The Building Societies Commission]:

Lord Houghton of Sowerby moved Amendment No. 8: Page 171, line 15, at end insert ("though not for any period exceeding five years, which may be extended for a further period not exceeding five years").

The noble Lord said: This amendment can soon be disposed of. I am seeking to find out a little more about the conditions of service of the chairman and deputy chairman of the Building Societies Commission. In Schedule 1 to the Bill it says that there shall be an instrument of appointment. Is there no period to that instrument? Is there some standard form here? It is usual to indicate the tenure of office when making a public appointment of this kind, and whether it can be renewed. If the noble Lord tells me that this is all right, that this is what they usually do, I presume that later on we shall have to ask questions when the appointment is made—on what terms, and for how long?

I thought it not a bad idea to say that the appointment shall be not longer than five years to begin with, to be renewed for another five years, but not to exceed 10 altogether. That seemed reasonable. I am open to persuasion. I shall not spend further time on it. I beg to move.

Lord Brabazon of Tara

It is indeed the intention that the commissioners will have fixed-term appointments, and the period is likely to be in the range of three to five years. We would not therefore want to go as far as does the amendment of the noble Lord in putting in the statute exactly how long they should remain. We should like to retain flexibility so that the commission can retain expertise. It is possible to envisage circumstances in which a commissioner has been appointed originally for a fixed term, and has had his appointment extended for a further period. Then, because of the ill-health of another commissioner, it might be desirable to reappoint him for a further short period. We should like to retain the flexibility as it is. But I can give the information which the noble lord, Lord Houghton, seeks, that the period is likely to be within the range of three to five years. I hope that will satisfy him.

Lord Williams of Elvel

May I ask the Minister for certain clarification of what he has said? Do I understand him to say that the Government will publish a fixed term for the appointment of commissioners which is in the range of three to five years—and no doubt it will be something such as four years—or is he saying that there will be flexibility in the terms that one commissioner may be appointed for three years and another for five years, and that it will be extendable? What exactly is the Minister saying to my noble friend?

Lord Brabazon of Tara

Each individual appointment will be separately negotiated, so to speak, for a term of between three and five years. If I have any further information to give the noble Lord I shall write to him on that point.

Lord Harris of Greenwich

Perhaps the noble Lord will do so. It is very unusual to make public appointments on the basis that he is describing. They are normally for a fixed period. To take an illustration which is not particularly relevant to this area, when people were appointed to the parole board they were appointed for a specific number of years. If Ministers therefter wanted to appoint someone for a longer period then they re-appointed the individual. I find it very unusual to have this degree of uncertainty. I do not want to press the noble Lord today. It is not a matter of critical importance, but perhaps the noble Lord will look into it between now and the Report stage.

Lord Brabazon of Tara

Yes, I shall indeed do so if I cannot give an answer now. It will be a fixed period of between three and five years. Perhaps I may write to the noble Lord, Lord Harris of Greenwich, and let him have a copy of the letter. If I have been in any way unclear in my answer I shall certainly deal with the matter.

Lord Houghton of Sowerby

I take it that the appointment will be for a fixed term of between three and five years. That seems to be quite definite because it has been repeated so many times! For the time being I shall take the noble Lord's answer because I do not want to delay the Committee any longer on a matter of this kind. I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Lord Houghton of Sowerby moved Amendment No. 9: Page 171, line 37, leave out paragraph 4.

The noble Lord said: I now come to a rather more serious matter. I rise in defence of men and women in the prime of life at the age of 70. My amendment would remove the slur upon them in paragraph 4 of Schedule 1 which says: No person who has attained the age of 70 years is eligible to be or to remain a part-time member of the Commission".

The history of the Halifax Building Society shows that the most notable personality in the whole movement was Sir Enoch Hill who served for 35 years and retired voluntarily at the age of 72 amid gratitude and appreciation of his long service and great ability. The elderly board of the Halifax Building Society pioneered the building society movement. Now we are told that no one over the age of 70 may, remain a part-time member of the Commission".

As regards building societies, the Bill says that directors over 70 shall be subject to annual election. I have no particular quarrel with that. I remember years ago sitting on a committee on the future of the Civil Service and the late Lord Woolton said that he would put all civil servants over 50 on an annual contract and that would stop them talking about promotion for the sake of how much it would add to their pensions! He would keep them on their toes in their late years. I have no real complaint against putting people on an annual engagement, but I do complain about banning them altogether.

The appointments will be in the hands of the Treasury and they can surely take care of appointing suitable people. Even my noble friend Lord Wilson of Rievaulx said that he was always ready to make room for an older man! I think that we are really quite stupid about age. Where does this 70 years come from? Is it what the doctors say or is it what the Bible says? I had an old uncle who when he reached 70 said, "I've now had my allotted span". He then began to moan about living on borrowed time. I said, "Who've you borrowed it from? You've never owed anybody a penny all your life and now you say that you are living on borrowed time". The idea of three score years and 10 is quite absurd. Surely I can appeal to your Lordships' House of all institutions to defend the right of able bodied people of 70 to do a job of work even on the Building Societies Commission.

I sincerely hope that the Government have not put the two young noble Lords on the Front Bench opposite to try and denounce the right of those able bodied people of 70 to continue in their work. I notice that the noble Lord, Lord Young, has moved away from those young people!

Seriously, I think that this quite unnecessary slur should be removed from the Bill. I need not say any more. I cannot believe that the Committee will endorse this vote of censure upon this House. Here we have the créme de la créme of wisdom and experience among senior citizens. Yet we are asked to sit here and endorse—indeed, to put into an Act of Parliament— that no person after the age of 70 shall be eligible for or to remain in (and that is the unkindest cut of all) the job. It is like cutting him off; as soon as he is on borrowed time, out he goes. No, those who look after these appointments can manage them very well without a prohibition of this kind in the Bill. I sincerely hope that if the Government do not take this paragraph out voluntarily, then all of those over 70 should go into the Lobby against it—and that will ensure that the amendment will be carried!

Lord Brabazon of Tara

I know that I am on touchy ground here. I think that the best I can do is to put the blame on the party opposite, because the Bill as originally drafted did not contain this provision. Indeed, it was only put into the Bill in response to an undertaking given in Committee to the honourable Member for Ipswich, who is a member of the party opposite. I am not allowed to quote verbatim what the honourable Member said, but he implied that Labour Members believe that an age limit must be part of the qualification for being a commissioner. He said that no one had said that beyond some arbitrary age someone has outlived his or her usefulness. He said that it is frequently the case that wisdom and experience go with age and that in public life people of very senior ages make major contributions to public decisions. That certainly is the case in this Chamber. He went on to say that he felt, however, that when one has reached the age of 70 it is time to let a younger person have a go, and I would endorse that particular aspect of what he said. To be fair to those of us below the age of 70, it is perhaps a good idea occasionally to let somebody below that age have a go at these things.

Therefore, if the noble Lord, Lord Houghton, were to call a Division at this moment, I do not know how the Committee would divide on the matter. I think that I might be on the losing side! Nevertheless, I am afraid that I cannot accept the amendment. I think that Members of another place of all parties who approved this measure would not wish me to do so at this moment.

Lord Houghton of Sowerby

I cannot withdraw the amendment. If noble Lords—young and old—feel disposed to keep this paragraph in the Bill, then it is their responsibility and not mine. I will not have it for myself and I do not wish it on anybody else. Youth will have its chance all right; the whole nation is waiting for a little more wisdom among young people because then we may be in better shape all round. I cannot withdraw the amendment, because it is quite unnecessary to put a limitation of this kind in the Bill. If people making appointments cannot exercise their own judgment and discretion, then I do not think that the law should be there to help them. It should come out of the Bill. I cannot withdraw the amendment. It is up to the Committee.

7 p.m.

On Question, Whether the said amendment (No. 9) shall be agreed to?

Their Lordships divided: Contents, 21; Not-Contents, 57.

Airedale, L. Irving of Dartford, L.
Brockway, L. Kaldor, L.
Carmichael of Kelvingrove, L. Kilmarnock, L.
Carnock. L. Mulley, L.
Crawshaw of Aintree, L. Pitt of Hampstead, L.
[Teller.] Plummer of
Diamond, L. St. Marylebone, L.
Foot, L. Rugby, L.
Grey, E. Strabolgi, L.
Harris of Greenwich, L. Underhill, L.
Hatch of Lusby, L. Vickers, B.
Houghton of Sowerby, L.
Allenby of Megiddo, V. Macleod of Borve, B.
Alport, L. Maude of Stratford-upon -
Ampthill, L. Avon, L.
Belstead, L. Merrivale, L.
Bessborough, E. Mersey, V.
Brabazon of Tara, L. Morris, L.
Brougham and Vaux, L. Mountgarret, V.
Caithness, E. Murton of Lindisfarne, L.
Cameron of Lochbroom, L. Onslow, E.
Colville of Culross, V. Portland, D.
Colwyn, L. Rankeillour, L.
Craigavon, V. Reigate, L.
Davidson, V. Renwick, L.
Denning, L. Sandford, L.
Elton, L. Shrewsbury, E.
Ferrier, L. Shuttleworth, L.
Gardner of Parkes, B. Skelmersdale, L.
Gray of Contin, L. Strathclyde, L.
Hailsham of Saint Strathcona and Mount Royal,
Marylebone, L. L.
Henley, L. Swansea, L.
Hooper, B. Swinton, E. [Teller.]
Hylton-Foster, B. Trenchard, V.
Lane-Fox, B. Trumpington, B.
Layton, L. Ullswater, V.
Lindsey and Abingdon, E. Vivian, L.
Long, V. [Teller.] Whitelaw, V.
Lucas of Chilworth, L. Young, B.
Lyell, L. Young of Graffham, L.
McFadzean, L. Zouche of Haryngworth, L.

On Question, amendments agreed to.

Lord Skelmersdale

I think that perhaps we have got as far, if possibly not as fast, as we can on this Bill at the moment. In moving that the House do now resume, I suggest that we do not return to this Bill until at least eight o'clock. I beg to move that the House do now resume.

House resumed.