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Michael Fabricant (Lichfield): On a point of order, Mr. Speaker. Today, for the first time in my experience, an hon. Member spoke in the Chamber without a tie. That may or not be the new standard. I know that from time to time you deal with the Chief Whips of the various parties, and it might be helpful if the dress code were made clear, especially to hon. Gentlemen, who have less ability to vary their clothing than hon. Ladies. If there is a change in dress code, that is fine by me. I will come in in my chinos and open-neck shirtor maybe I will not. Either way, I should like to know what is expected of us. I have always thought that we had to wear a jacket and tie, at least.
David Burnside (South Antrim): On a point of order, Mr. Speaker. On 22 May I raised a point of order about the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland not having answered my question on defining the status of the IRA ceasefire. Following your good offices, he immediately replied to me. In his reply, he said:
Mr. Bill Wiggin (Leominster): On a point of order, Mr. Speaker. My question concerns my constituent Mr. Phillips. I have already delivered to your office a catalogue and diary of the relevant events. My constituent's sheep were culled in a contiguous cull and his farm was sprayed with FAM30a biocide, which happened to kill his worms, into which he had diversified. Because of that, perhaps the Ministry is taking his case lightly, although he is claiming £50,000 in compensation.
I have written to the Minister on countless occasions. I have received acknowledgements of my letters, but I have not received a reply to the kernel of the problem: Mr. Phillips's compensation claim. Indeed, I wrote again on 17 January, and finally on 24 January, my letter was acknowledged and a full reply promised. On 7 March, I tabled a written question to ask when that full reply might be forthcoming.
Finally, at the end of June, I received a reply, saying that, because my constituent had gone to a solicitor as he had received no reply, the Minister felt that the case was sub judice. I cannot think of anything else that I can do to encourage the Ministry to reply to my letters, and I wondered whether you, Mr. Speaker, might have any pearl of wisdom that you might wish to cast before us.
Mr. Speaker: I am concerned that the hon. Gentleman has not received a reply. Of course he has put the matter on the record, but he could apply for an Adjournment debateperhaps that would bring the Minister to the Floor of the House.
Mr. Andrew Robathan (Blaby): On a point of order, Mr. Speaker. You will correct me if I am wrong, but I understand that the parliamentary ombudsman is a servant of the House and is appointed by the House of Commons Commission. He certainly owes his allegiance to the Houses of Parliament. In the autumn, he placed a report in the Library because he could get no response from the Government. He has still received no response. Can you or the House of Commons Commission give him any advice on how he could get a response when he is carrying out his duties on behalf of the Houses of Parliament?
Mr. Speaker: The ombudsman is an Officer of the House, but he is not appointed by the House of Commons Commission. The hon. Gentleman must keep pursuing the matter. If he feels disappointed by any reply regarding that matter that he has received today or from any Minister, he must keep pursuing it.
Mr. Desmond Swayne presented a Bill to grant additional powers to local authorities in England and Wales for the enforcement of controls and for the prosecution of offences relating to the unauthorised or harmful deposit, treatment or disposal of waste and the transporting of controlled waste without registering; to amend the Control of Pollution (Amendment) Act 1989 and Part II of the Environmental Protection Act 1990; and for connected purposes: And the same was read the First time; and ordered to be read a Second time on Friday 19 July, and to be printed [Bill 162].
'.(1) There shall be inserted into the Individual Savings Account Regulations 1998 (S.I. 1998, No. 1870) following Regulation 9 (qualifying investments for an insurance component)
"Qualifying transfers from cash component to stocks and shares component
9A.(1) This regulation permits investments originally made under the cash component of an account or under a TESSA only account to be transferred into the stocks and shares component of an account.
(2) Where on or after 1st October 2002 an account investor makes an election under this regulation in respect of an account then
(a) the amount of the qualifying investments then held under the cash component of the relevant account as is specified in the election; or
(b) the amount of the funds then held under a TESSA only account as is specified in the election,
may be applied in purchasing investments which are qualifying investments for a stocks and shares component, within the meaning of regulation 7.
(3) The funds applied as mentioned in paragraph (2) shall be regarded as having always been validly made into the stocks and shares component of an account and any amount so transferred shall not count towards the subscription limits in regulation 4(2) and (3)(a) as the case may be.
(4) An election made under this regulation shall be made in writing to the relevant account manager and must fulfil the conditions set out in paragraphs (5) and (6) below.
(5) The election must satisfy such requirements under regulation 12 as would apply to an application to subscribe for a stocks and shares component of a new account.
(6) The election must specify
(a) the cash component of the account or TESSA only account, as the case may be, out of which the transfer is to be made; and
(b) the amount of funds to be transferred (not to exceed the maximum amount then held in that account).
(7) The election made as described in paragraph (2) above shall be irrevocable."
(2) This section comes into force on 1st October 2002.'.[Mr. Flight.]
New clause 23 is a straightforward and down-to-earth probing suggestion. PEPs, followed by ISAs, have been very successful in attracting large numbers of people, extending down into society, to the savings habit. The structure of ISAs has been perhaps more complicated than many people might like, although that structure was chosen for good reasons.
As hon. Members will know, mini and maxi ISAs are available. People can invest £3,000 in mini ISAs, all of which can be in cash, and a maximum of £3,000 cash can be invested in maxi ISAs. Historically, people also have cash savings under TESSAs. When those cash savings mature after five years, the interest can no longer be part of the contract, but the principal element can be carried forward into a cash ISA. Perhaps I should have started by declaring an interest in accordance with my entry in the register, although the matter that I am raising is purely practical.
The issue is that once people lock into the cash element of a savings plan, they cannot move out of cash into securities. In the current economic climate people will understandably be cautious and will want to stay in cash. As times move on, however, and as markets go up and down, people may want to move into securities. Indeed, the original purpose of PEPs and ISAs was to encourage investment in securities and not just in cash. The cost to the Revenue can be more in relation to cash, as the amount of tax-free interest is usually greater than the level of dividends paid on equities.
The new clause simply proposes that people who have their cash element in mini and maxi ISAs, and in maturing TESSAs, should, if they wish, be able to invest that cash in securities, but not revert to cash in the future. Although, in principle, it might appeal to people to be able to move all the time between cash and securities, that poses both tax and administrative problems.
The House will be aware of the need to boost savings in this country; perhaps the savings rate should not be boosted by too much in the next few years, as that may cause a recession, but it has fallen to too low a level. I accept, however, that we face difficult and out of the ordinary circumstances in the financial markets.
I repeat that the new clause is a simple, probing amendment. I understand that there may be some degree of support for the idea in the Treasury and in the Revenue, and it would not amount to an additional cost to the Exchequerif anything, it might be to the Revenue's advantage. I hope that the Minister will respond supportively. I candidly do not know whether the new clause is perfect or imperfect; I expect that it is imperfect, as it is on a difficult, technical matter. What it proposes, however, is eminently clear.