HL Deb 30 November 1998 vol 595 cc240-2

3.7 p.m.

The Lord Privy Seal (Baroness Jay of Paddington)

My Lords, I beg to move the Motion standing in my name on the Order Paper.

Moved, That it is desirable that a Select Committee be appointed to consider the operation of the Monetary Policy Committee of the Bank of England and to make recommendations.—(Baroness Jay of Paddington.)

Lord Jenkin of Roding

My Lords, perhaps I may put a question to the noble Baroness the Leader of the House. There seems to be a view abroad that this is to be, in some way, a short-term committee. If that is indeed the case, I believe that that would be a mistake. In this House there is a wealth of expertise and experience of financial services generally and of the subject matter of the Monetary Policy Committee in particular. It would seem to me to be a wholly admirable development that there should be a committee which would sit long term to look at those matters and to discuss them with the Bank.

Baroness Jay of Paddington

My Lords, I am grateful for the remarks of the noble Lord, Lord Jenkin, about the wealth of expertise and the reasons that lie behind the establishment of the committee, with which I am sure the whole House agrees and accepts. I understand that the Liaison Committee recommended to the House, and the House accepted, that this should be described as an ad hoc committee which, in the first instance, would have its work considered within the time frame of one year. But it is for the Liaison Committee and the whole House to agree if they wish to extend it further.

Lord Bruce of Donington

My Lords, will my noble friend the Leader of the House give an assurance that when it comes to recommendations as to membership of the proposed committee, she will bear in mind that there are widely diverse views within your Lordships' House concerning the operations and, indeed, terms of reference of the members of the Monetary Policy Committee? Will she assure the House that the voices of occasional dissent may be permitted to be heard by that committee?

Baroness Jay of Paddington

My Lords, the Committee of Selection in your Lordships' House meets later this afternoon and after that, we may have a clearer view of what it is recommending to the House in terms of membership of the committee. I am sure that all views will be vigorously put and taken into account.

Lord Renton

My Lords, will the Select Committee have power to consider the important overriding question of whether the Bank of England should continue to have power to fix the bank rate, bearing in mind that the Government cannot have a complete and credible economic policy without being able to control the bank rate?

Baroness Jay of Paddington

My Lords, I am sure that the noble Lord does not expect me to pre-empt the terms of discussion of the committee, although he raises an important central issue which I am sure will be the subject of some of its deliberations. I respectfully remind the noble Lord that it is not a Select Committee but an ad hoc committee of the House.

Lord Cocks of Hartcliffe

My Lords, I support my noble friend Lord Bruce that it should be a House committee and not subjected to influence, either before, during or after selection. This is not merely an academic question. When the House recently considered the Offices Committee report, which was supposed to be a matter entirely for the House, I moved an amendment regarding the public expenditure of £2.5 million. I am told by colleagues that the Government Whips were advising people to vote against me and my noble friend the Chief Whip was actually a teller against me, as was the noble Lord, Lord Strathclyde.

Baroness Jay of Paddington

My Lords, I am sure we all hear my noble friend's concerns with interest, but that is a little wide of the discussion in relation to the setting up of this committee. I am sure that those who are considered by the committee on selection will take great heed of what my noble friend, and others, have said.

On Question, Motion agreed to.