HL Deb 17 July 1989 vol 510 cc563-4

Earl Alexander of Tunis asked Her Majesty's Government:

Whether they will investigate the supervision of the Lloyd's underwriting market.

The Secretary of State for Trade and Industry (Lord Young of Graffham)

My Lords, regulatory arrangements at Lloyd's were considered by a committee of inquiry in 1986. Full implementation of that committee's recommendations is almost complete and another investigation is not appropriate.

Earl Alexander of Tunis

My Lords, I thank my noble friend for his reply. Being a Name at Lloyd's, I must declare an interest. I have in my hand a report on the Oakeley Vaughan underwriting agency which was commissioned by Lloyd's. It exposes falsification of accounts, secret profits, mismanagement and gross breaches of the Companies Act as well as the Lloyd's Act. Is the Minister aware that this report was withheld from the suffering Names? Will the Government look again at Section 14 of the Act, which gives immunity to Lloyd's, making it almost impossible for the suffering and defrauded Names to obtain redress?

Lord Young of Graffham

My Lords, I am not sure to which report my noble friend refers. However I can assure him, as I am sure he knows already, that Section 14 of the Lloyd's Act 1982 granted Lloyd's immunity from suits for damages by members. It is similar to sections in the Financial Services Act which granted immunity to the SIB and the self-regulating organisations. The purpose of these sections is to ensure that those regulatory bodies are not inhibited from taking appropriate action by fear of civil suits. I hear what my noble friend says but do not think that I could easily contemplate the changes that he proposes.

Lord Williams of Elvel

My Lords, I very much hope that the report in The Times this morning to the effect that the noble Lord is about to throw in the sponge is wholly incorrect, since I very much enjoy our agreeable exchanges across the Floor of this House. In the context of those agreeable exchanges, can he tell the House how many Lloyd's underwriting syndicates at present are unable to close their accounts because of unknown liabilities?

Lord Young of Graffham

My Lords, I am very grateful for the testimonial given to me by the noble Lord. We read a great deal in the papers but it seems to me that it is many decades past since Members of your Lordships' House indulged in the habit of reshuffling. That has now passed to another place and we must wait to see what emerges from there. So far as I can answer the specific question put to me, two of the Outhwaite syndicates' accounts for 1982 are still lying open at the moment. I shall inquire as to the precise number and write to the noble Lord, putting a copy in the Library.

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