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30 Oct 2002 : Column 896—continued

Simon Hughes: I am grateful for the Home Secretary's helpful answer. To take up a proposal made on a couple of occasions, will he consider whether an existing body of parliamentarians—the democratically elected members of the Intelligence and Security Committee—may be given an additional brief reviewing intelligence prior to future decisions about proscription?

Mr. Blunkett: I am minded to try to keep the balance of the Intelligence and Security Committee, for which we all have a great deal of respect. However, I am prepared to consider the kind of evidence that its members can take on Privy Council terms. I am not sure about widening the committee chaired by Lord Newton. In fact, I seem to have put myself in the hands of every form of opposition, from Lord Carlile to Lord Newton and Lady Harris. I am afraid to tell the hon. Member for North Down that no member of her party serves on that committee—we will have to take a look at that and see what we can do.

In response to my hon. Friend the Member for Hendon (Mr. Dismore), I made it clear at the outset that the proscribed organisations covered by the motion are determined by their contacts with al-Qaeda and our knowledge and proof that that is so, but that does not rule out proscribing other organisations where that is merited. I have not done that. I want to make that clear to him, because he made a powerful case in relation to Palestinian terrorism.

There is an underlying issue, which was raised throughout the debate: the need to understand the international nature of terrorism, rather than the issue

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of whether a particular group wants to overthrow Saddam Hussein. The international nature of terrorism is what we have been debating this afternoon.

I invite my hon. Friend the Member for Thurrock (Andrew Mackinlay) to meet the co-ordinator, to see whether we can make some progress on his concerns about port security. It is as important to me as it is to him and his constituents that we get that right. We have a senior police officer working as co-ordinator and I would value the help that my hon. Friend can give. In fact, he and my hon. Friend the Member for Hendon might be tremendous candidates for joining the security services when, at some distant future date, they decide to step down from Parliament. I shall put their names forward as they have done such a good job.

I assure the shadow Home Secretary, the right hon. Member for West Dorset, that I will provide to him any answers that I have not given during the debate. It is important that answers are given to questions about the links to the meeting in Thailand, the incidents in the Philippines and Singapore, and the direct links to knowledge, at a particular juncture, about the work and actions of JI in the archipelago, of which Bali is just one part. I would like to provide that information on Privy Council terms. Clearly, knowledge has been available. Everyone who has taken an interest in these matters—I know that his right hon. Friend the shadow Foreign Secretary, the right hon. Member for Devizes (Mr. Ancram), raised the matter in the context of a statement following the Bali attack—was aware of the kind of intervention that had saved people in Singapore, and the exchange of information that had taken place between security services on the back of it.

As the right hon. Gentleman rightly pointed out very gently and, I thought, generously, it is easy to be wise after the event. We are trying to balance what his right hon. and learned Friend the Member for Sleaford and North Hykeham believes to be a draconian power of proscription with the need to act quickly and decisively when we believe that there is sufficient evidence to prove

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international links with terrorism, and a threat not just to us, but to all those seeking democracy across the world.

Question put and agreed to.


Madam Deputy Speaker (Sylvia Heal): I propose to put together the Questions on delegated legislation.

Motion made, and Question put forthwith, pursuant to Standing Order No. 118(6)(Standing Committees on Delegated Legislation),

Income Tax

Question agreed to.



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30 Oct 2002 : Column 899

Orders of the Day

Enterprise Bill

Lords amendments considered.

Madam Deputy Speaker (Sylvia Heal): I draw the House's attention to the fact that privilege is involved in Lords amendments Nos. 54, 77, 279, 281, 282, 286, 294, 296, 297, 299 to 301, 305, 306 and 308, which are to be considered today. If the House agrees to any of these Lords amendments, I shall ensure that the appropriate entry is made in the Journal.

Clause 1

Office of Fair Trading

Lords amendment: No. 1, in clause 1, page 1, line 5, after Xcorporate" insert
Xwith both a chairman and a chief executive"

5.15 pm

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Trade and Industry (Miss Melanie Johnson): I beg to move, That this House disagrees with the Lords in the said amendment.

Madam Deputy Speaker: With this we may discuss Lords amendment No. 2 and Government amendment (a) thereto, Lords amendments Nos. 3 to 6, Lords amendment No. 176 and Government motion to disagree thereto, Lords amendments Nos. 177 to 186 and Government motions to disagree thereto, and Lords amendments Nos. 187 and 188.\

Miss Johnson: Lords amendments Nos. 1 and 176 to 186 provide for a statutory post of chief executive to the Office of Fair Trading. The Bill provides that the OFT consist of a chairman and no fewer than four other members appointed by the Secretary of State, who would consult the chairman before appointing any other member. That is a depersonalisation of consumer and competition regulation. We expect the OFT to have a majority of non-executive members and are giving it significant independence from Ministers.

We have taken account of the OFT's particular circumstances in deciding not to separate the roles of chairman and chief executive at this time. The Secretary of State will appoint John Vickers as chairman for the remainder of his current term as Director General of Fair Trading, honouring the commitment that was made to him when he was appointed to that post. John Vickers will work with other members of the OFT. Given his position and the need to provide some continuity in this period of great change, I do not think that the OFT should necessarily separate the roles of chairman and chief executive. Although the Bill does not provide for a separate post of chief executive, it does not preclude it either. If the OFT wishes at any time to take that route, it can create a separate post of chief executive and select the appointee.

The amendments would create a post of chief executive appointed by the Secretary of State. By contrast, our approach ensures that the OFT could appoint a separate chief executive if it wished to do so

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and gives it much more independence and discretion. It is also consistent with the approach taken throughout the Bill and with other regulators. The chief executive of Postcomm is appointed by the chairman, who is appointed by the Secretary of State, and the chief executive of Ofcom will be appointed by the board. That is why I urge the House to accept the Government motions to disagree.

On Government amendment (a) to Lords amendment No. 2, I am very happy to accept the principle of the proposal that the OFT should have regard to generally accepted principles of good corporate governance in its affairs, but after much consideration, we consider it necessary to amend the Lords amendment to ensure that the OFT must have regard only to the principles of good corporate governance that may reasonably be regarded as relevant to it and that it must also have regard

The OFT will be a non-ministerial Department and not a public limited company, and many of the principles of corporate governance are aimed at business practices that do not have obvious equivalents in government. I believe that the changes that I recommend reflect the will of the Lords to ensure that the OFT has regard to the principles of good corporate governance, but achieve that in a way that is appropriate to it as a public body.

Finally, Lords amendments Nos. 3 to 6, 187 and 188 were tabled in response to points made in Committee. They improve the accountability and transparency of the OFT and require the Secretary of State to publish criteria for designating bodies as super-complainants. I am happy to speak in more detail about those amendments if hon. Members wish me to do so.

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