HL Deb 07 November 1989 vol 512 cc624-8

93A Leave out lines 23 to 25 and insert — ("(5) Regulations under this section shall not be made unless a draft of them has been laid before and approved by resolution of each House of Parliament.").

Lord Williams of Elvel

My Lords, I apologise to the House and to the noble Lord the Deputy Speaker for being out of order. I hope that the House will forgive me. It is extremely difficult when we have these very complex grouped amendments to follow the right procedure. I thought that I was reasonably expert in the procedure of the House. However, I apologise that I was out of order.

I beg to move Amendment No. 93A standing in my name and which requires the affirmative procedure for the provisions mentioned under Commons Amendment No. 93. I do not wish to go over the arguments that I have deployed previously. As a matter of principle, the concept of regulations which the Secretary of State may issue as he thinks fit, simply because the Government have nothing that they can put into the primary statute, is one to which I object. The powers under negative procedure to impose obligations on the Institute of Chartered Accountants, or anybody else who is eligible for appointment as company auditor, or regulations which may include provision for anything whatsoever—including the kitchen sink —are a matter to which noble Lords, as Members of a revising House, ought to pay a little more than passing attention. It is for that reason that I put down my amendment. I beg to move.

Moved, That Amendment No. 93A, as an amendment to Commons Amendment No. 93, be agreed to. —(Lord Williams of Elvel.)

Lord Rippon of Hexham

My Lords, I intervene briefly —usually hopelessly —simply to say that I entirely endorse what the noble Lord, Lord Williams of Elvel, has said about the excessive use of regulations because the Government are unable to draft the primary legislation in a satisfactory form, although it runs into hundreds of pages.

This is a matter of principle which is objected to by many people on both sides of the House. It arises time after time. I do not know what we are going to do about it. We are getting very close to a government of which either Oswald Mosley or Stafford Cripps might well have been very proud.

Lord Lloyd of Kilgerran

My Lords, whenever one sees that regulations are to be produced by the Secretary of State one is at least naturally cautious. I follow the noble Lord, Lord Rippon, in supporting what the noble Lord, Lord Williams, has said.

Lord Trefgarne

My Lords, I hope my noble friend will not mind my saying that I did not too much care for the last sentence of his intervention a moment ago.

The Government are always ready to consider arguments from your Lordships that regulation-making powers should be subject to the positive rather than the negative resolution procedure. I have already explained that our present intention is that the regulations and the register covered by Clause 33 should be along the lines that the Institute of Chartered Accountants have proposed. It may be helpful if I say why we think that it would be better not to set down the precise arrangements in the Bill, but rather give some scope for a different approach to be adopted, if that were thought to be desirable by those responsible for maintaining the register and the information mentioned in Clause 34.

It may be that once the potential, recognised supervisory bodies get down to the detailed arrangements for maintaining the register they will decide that it would be better if they worked together in running a single register or perhaps set up a single body to run it on their behalf. As we know, the Institute of Chartered Accountants had difficulty with our original suggestion that the maintenance of the register ought to be a joint responsibility. However, I think that everyone recognises that it would be best if we could avoid the duplication which the institute's alternative suggestion involves.

If that were so, it may be that they would wish the body also to hold in one place the information presently covered by the requirements in Clause 34. I note that it is only regulations under that clause, and not Clause 33, which the noble Lord wishes to make subject to the negative resolution procedure. In order to permit this change of approach we have also decided to make the requirements as to information in Clause 34 equally capable of being prescribed in regulations.

It will be apparent from what I have said that all that we are concerned with in these regulations is essentially the form and place of holding the information. On this, we are ourselves happy to be guided by what is the consensus among the potentially recognised bodies. After all, they will be responsible for maintaining the information. I cannot believe that each House should automatically have to give positive resolution in favour of regulations merely setting out the mechanics of exactly how the bodies are to maintain the information. It is surely right that the presumption should be that the regulations will be approved unless a noble Lord or a Member of another place wishes to object. I hope therefore that your Lordships will not be persuaded by the arguments that we have heard.

I hope that my noble friend will now recognise that there is no sinister purpose in the regulation-making powers that we propose in this case and that indeed the last sentence of his earlier intervention was inappropriate.

Lord Williams of Elvel

My Lords, the noble Lord was critical of the fact that I did not seek to make the regulations under Clause 33 subject to affirmative procedure, but concentrated on Clause 34.

Clause 34 has as it rubric: Information about firms to be available to the public". The clause as drafted states: A recognised supervisory body shall keep available at its registered or principal office the following information with respect to the firms eligible under its rules for appointment as a company auditor". If the Secretary of State is to be allowed to make whatever regulations he feels fit regarding the disclosure of information about firms to be available to the public, it is quite a different matter to that of whether they should be on the register of auditors. We are talking about information about firms. It may happen that the Secretary of State decides to publish the names of all the divorced wives of the partners. If he thinks fit, he is entitled to do so under negative procedure. I find that offensive.

I am grateful to the noble Lord, Lord Rippon of Hexham, because for some time he and I have seen eye to eye on this type of matter. Amendment No. 33 is fine because we can argue about whether it should be subject to affirmative or negative resolution. However, the subject of this amendment needs discussion in this House and in another place before any Secretary of State issues regulations regarding information about firms to be made available to public. That is the point that I am making.

Lord Rippon of Hexham

My Lords, I may have spoken strongly and offended my noble friend. However, he will recall that both Sir Oswald Mosley and Sir Stafford Cripps believed strongly that there should be skeletal legislation and as much government by order and regulation as conceivably possible. It may be that his particular regulation is not unduly sinister, but it is the generality of such provisions in statute after statute that I find objectionable. It is on that principle that I support the comments of the noble Lord, Lord 'Williams of Elvel.

7.22 p.m.

On Question, Whether Amendment No. 93A, as an amendment to Commons Amendment No. 93, shall be agreed to?

Their Lordships divided: Contents, 39; Not-Contents, 86.

Airedale, L. Monson, L.
Blease, L. [Teller.] Nicol, B.
Blyth, L. Ogmore, L.
Butterfield, L. Peston, L.
Carmichael of Kelvingrove, L. Prys-Davies, L.
Ripon, Bp.
Cocks of Hartcliffe, L. Rippon of Hexham, L.
David, B. Seear, B.
Dean of Beswick, L. Serota, B.
Dormand of Easington, L. Shepherd, L.
Ewart-Biggs, B. Strabolgi, L.
Gallacher, L. [Teller.] Taylor of Blackburn, L.
Galpern, L. Taylor of Gryfe, L.
Hanworth, V. Taylor of Mansfield, L.
Hatch of Lusby, L. Underhill, L.
Houghton of Sowerby, L. Wedderburn of Charlton, L.
Jenkins of Putney, L. Whaddon, L.
Kinloss, Ly. White, B.
Lloyd of Kilgerran, L. Williams of Elvel, L.
Mackie of Benshie, L. Winstanley, L.
Arran, E. Kimball, L.
Astor, V. Lindsey and Abingdon, E.
Barber, L. Lonsdale, E.
Belstead, L. Lucas of Chilworth, L.
Blake, L. Lyell, L.
Borthwick, L. McColl of Dulwich, L.
Brabazon of Tara, L. Mackay of Clashfern, L.
Brookeborough, V. Macleod of Borve, B.
Brougham and Vaux, L. Merrivale, L.
Butterworth, L. Mersey, V.
Caithness, E. Morris, L.
Carnegy of Lour, B. Mottistone, L.
Carnock, L. Mountevans, L.
Carr of Hadley, L. Munster, E.
Colville of Culross, V. Murton of Lindisfarne, L.
Colwyn, L. Nelson, E.
Cork and Orrery, E. Oxfuird, V.
Cox, B. Rankeillour, L.
Crathorne, L. Reay, L.
Davidson, V. [Teller.] Redesdale, L.
Denham, L. [Teller.] Rochdale, V.
Dundee, E. Sharples, B.
Elles, B. Shrewsbury, E.
Elliott of Morpeth, L. Skelmersdale, L.
Faithfull, B. Southborough, L.
Ferrers, E. Stanley of Alderley, L.
Fortescue, E. Stockton, E.
Fraser of Carmyllie, L. Strange, B.
Gibson-Watt, L. Strathclyde, L.
Gisborough, L. Strathmore and Kinghorne, E.
Glenarthur, L.
Gray of Contin, L. Suffield, L.
Gridley, L. Swinfen, L.
Grimston of Westbury, L. Thomas of Gwydir, L.
Haig, E. Thomas of Swynnerton, L.
Hardinge of Penshurst, L. Torrington, V.
Harlech, L. Tranmire, L.
Harmar-Nicholls, L. Trefgarne, L.
Harvington, L. Ullswater, V.
Henley, L. Vaux of Harrowden, L.
Hives, L. Vinson, L.
Home of the Hirsel, L. Westbury, L.
Johnston of Rockport, L. Wynford, L.
Joseph, L.

Resolved in the negative, and Amendment No. 93A disagreed to accordingly.

7.29 p.m.

On Question, Amendment No. 93 agreed to.

Viscount Ullswater

My Lords, I beg to move that further consideration of Commons amendments be adjourned until 8.30 p.m.

Moved accordingly and, on Question, Motion agreed to.