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Baroness Farrington of Ribbleton: Before the Minister sits down, in his reply, to which I listened carefully, he said that the Government hope that there will be interest from a minimum of four institutions in England, four in Scotland and four in Wales. That would be the Government's aspiration and not a fixed target. Surely it is reasonable to have a minimum of at least 50 per cent. of the Government's target and to say that at least two would be a reasonable minimum, given the assertion that four would be the ideal.

Lord Henley: I regret to say that the noble Baroness has misquoted me. I said that our aim is to have up to four private sector lenders in each of the three areas that I discussed. I did not talk about minimums.

What I rejected about this amendment was that it said that we had to have at least a plurality, that we had to have at least two. It is exceedingly unlikely in view of what I said about the need to have competition and choice that we would ever have fewer than two, but we might feel we could pilot some scheme in a limited number of areas and then later move on to a wider scheme, if necessary. That is not our intention at the moment.

The noble Baroness must remember that this is an enabling Bill. Our intention is to have at least up to four and to have the appropriate choice and diversity. I do not think it would be right to be limited in the way that the amendment limits us.

Lord Morris of Castle Morris: Before the noble Lord sits down again, may I get this quite clear because it is an important point that he has made? I was about to bound to my feet but was beaten off the starting blocks by my noble friend. At the end of the Minister's reply it seemed to me that he committed himself to a plurality. He stressed that there would be competition. I made the point that competition requires at least two people; you cannot compete with yourself. Is that what he is stating, and, if that is the case, why does he not accept the amendment?

Lord Henley: As I explained in my rejoinder to the noble Baroness, obviously we would want competition and that requires a plurality. I pointed out that this was merely an enabling Bill and that there could be an occasion, if there were only one institution interested, when we might be able to try out some pilot scheme that might allow us to build on those advantages and persuade other institutions that there were merits in involving themselves in this. The amendment itself would completely preclude that.

Having said that, what I make quite clear is that our intention was not to go down that line if at all possible but to seek a plurality of the different providers so that there was the necessary competition.

Baroness Farrington of Ribbleton: Is the Minister prepared to give the House an assurance that in the event

12 Mar 1996 : Column 752

of financial institutions choosing to submit tenders--for example, three institutions, one choosing Scotland, one choosing England and another choosing Wales--they would then be prepared to sign agreements with what could be seen by some as a sort of cartel?

Lord Henley: Again, I do not think the noble Baroness listened to my earlier remarks when I talked about up to four private sectors for each of the three different areas, England and Wales, Northern Ireland or Scotland. Quite obviously the situation she is talking about would be merely one provider in each of those areas, and I do not think that would allow us the appropriate choice, diversity--words I know that the noble Baroness and her party hate--and competition.

Lord Addington: Having heard the noble Lord's answer, at one point I thought he was giving us exactly what we wanted, guaranteeing that there must be a number of people involved in the scheme. We heard him say: "We hope for", "Hopefully there shall be", "It is almost impossible that there will not be", or, "Well, we might live with one if we haven't any other choice". This is exactly what this amendment is about. Unless you guarantee yourself a degree of choice you are placing an institution in a tremendously strong position. This amendment is like guaranteeing that you will have at least two people there for a set period of time.

The Minister said: we do not think it would be a very good idea to have one person there but we might have to if it is the only way to get the scheme off the ground so that we can show to other people--I think I am more or less paraphrasing his words--that this is a good scheme. That is unacceptable. This is not something which is interfering with negotiation; it is about something which is a result of negotiating. This is the final thing, the final product. If the noble Lord is not prepared to give us firmer guarantees, which I thought he was at first, we have absolutely no choice, on these Benches anyway, but to press this amendment, because without it this Bill would be fundamentally flawed.

3.55 p.m.

On Question, Whether the said amendment (No. 2) shall be agreed to?

Their Lordships divided: Contents, 104; Not-Contents, 156.

Division No. 2

CONTENTS

Acton, L.
Addington, L.
Allen of Abbeydale, L.
Ashley of Stoke, L.
Avebury, L.
Bancroft, L.
Barnett, L.
Beaumont of Whitley, L.
Birk, B.
Blackstone, B.
Blease, L.
Borrie, L.
Bridges, L.
Bruce of Donington, L.
Butterfield, L.
Callaghan of Cardiff, L.
Carter, L.
Castle of Blackburn, B.
Chorley, L.
Cledwyn of Penrhos, L.
Dahrendorf, L.
David, B.
Desai, L.
Diamond, L.
Donaldson of Kingsbridge, L.
Durham, Bp.
Ewing of Kirkford, L.
Ezra, L.
Falkland, V.
Farrington of Ribbleton, B.
Gallacher, L.
Gladwin of Clee, L.
Glasgow, E.
Glenamara, L.
Gould of Potternewton, B.
Graham of Edmonton, L. [Teller.]
Grey, E.
Harris of Greenwich, L.
Hayman, B.
Henderson of Brompton, L.
Hilton of Eggardon, B.
Hollis of Heigham, B.
Holme of Cheltenham, L.
Howie of Troon, L.
Hughes, L.
Hutchinson of Lullington, L.
Jay of Paddington, B.
Jenkins of Hillhead, L.
Jenkins of Putney, L.
Kintore, E.
Kirkhill, L.
Kirkwood, L.
Lester of Herne Hill, L.
Lockwood, B.
McGregor of Durris, L.
McIntosh of Haringey, L.
Mackie of Benshie, L.
McNair, L.
Mar and Kellie, E.
Masham of Ilton, B.
Mason of Barnsley, L.
Mayhew, L.
Merlyn-Rees, L.
Milner of Leeds, L.
Molloy, L.
Monkswell, L.
Morris of Castle Morris, L.
Nicol, B.
Ogmore, L.
Peston, L.
Ponsonby of Shulbrede, L.
Prys-Davies, L.
Rea, L.
Redesdale, L.
Richard, L.
Ritchie of Dundee, L.
Robson of Kiddington, B.
Rochester, L.
Russell, E.
Sainsbury, L.
Seear, B.
Sefton of Garston, L.
Serota, B.
Shannon, E.
Shepherd, L.
Simon, V.
Stallard, L.
Stedman, B.
Stoddart of Swindon, L.
Strabolgi, L.
Strafford, E.
Taverne, L.
Taylor of Blackburn, L.
Tenby, V.
Thomas of Walliswood, B.
Thomson of Monifieth, L.
Tope, L. [Teller.]
Tordoff, L.
Walton of Detchant, L.
Whaddon, L.
White, B.
Williams of Crosby, B.
Williams of Elvel, L.
Williams of Mostyn, L.

NOT-CONTENTS

Abinger, L.
Addison, V.
Airedale, L.
Alexander of Tunis, E.
Allenby of Megiddo, V.
Alport, L.
Archer of Weston-Super-Mare, L.
Astor of Hever, L.
Belhaven and Stenton, L.
Blake, L.
Blaker, L.
Blatch, B.
Boardman, L.
Boyd-Carpenter, L.
Brabazon of Tara, L.
Brookeborough, V.
Brookes, L.
Brougham and Vaux, L.
Butterworth, L.
Cadman, L.
Campbell of Alloway, L.
Campbell of Croy, L.
Carnegy of Lour, B.
Carnock, L.
Chalker of Wallasey, B.
Charteris of Amisfield, L.
Chelmsford, V.
Chesham, L. [Teller.]
Clanwilliam, E.
Clark of Kempston, L.
Constantine of Stanmore, L.
Courtown, E.
Craigavon, V.
Cranborne, V. [Lord Privy Seal.]
Cross, V.
Cuckney, L.
Cullen of Ashbourne, L.
Davidson, V.
Dean of Harptree, L.
Dixon-Smith, L.
Donegall, M.
Drogheda, E.
Elibank, L.
Ellenborough, L.
Elles, B.
Elliott of Morpeth, L.
Elton, L.
Fairhaven, L.
Ferrers, E.
Finsberg, L.
Flather, B.
Fraser of Kilmorack, L.
Gainford, L.
Geddes, L.
Gisborough, L.
Goschen, V.
Hailsham of Saint Marylebone, L.
Halsbury, E.
Hampden, V.
Hanworth, V.
Hardinge of Penshurst, L.
Harlech, L.
Harmar-Nicholls, L.
Harris of Peckham, L.
Harvington, L.
Hayhoe, L.
Henley, L.
Holderness, L.
HolmPatrick, L.
Hooper, B.
Hothfield, L.
Howe, E.
Hylton-Foster, B.
Ilchester, E.
Inglewood, L.
Ironside, L.
Johnston of Rockport, L.
Kimball, L.
Knollys, V.
Lane of Horsell, L.
Lauderdale, E.
Leigh, L.
Lindsay, E.
Liverpool, E.
Long, V.
Lucas, L.
Lyell, L.
McColl of Dulwich, L.
McConnell, L.
Mackay of Ardbrecknish, L.
Mackay of Clashfern, L.
[Lord Chancellor.]
Mackay of Drumadoon, L.
Marlesford, L.
Marsh, L.
Merrivale, L.
Mersey, V.
Middleton, L.
Miller of Hendon, B.
Milverton, L.
Montgomery of Alamein, V.
Mottistone, L.
Mountevans, L.
Mowbray and Stourton, L.
Munster, E.
Murton of Lindisfarne, L.
Nelson, E.
Norrie, L.
Northbourne, L.
Northesk, E.
O'Cathain, B.
Oliver of Aylmerton, L.
Oppenheim-Barnes, B.
Orkney, E.
Orr-Ewing, L.
Park of Monmouth, B.
Pearson of Rannoch, L.
Peyton of Yeovil, L.
Pike, B.
Pilkington of Oxenford, L.
Platt of Writtle, B.
Plummer of St. Marylebone, L.
Pym, L.
Quinton, L.
Rankeillour, L.
Rawlings, B.
Reay, L.
Renfrew of Kaimsthorn, L.
Renwick, L.
Romney, E.
Roskill, L.
St. Davids, V.
Samuel, V.
Sanderson of Bowden, L.
Sandford, L.
Seccombe, B.
Sharples, B.
Shaw of Northstead, L.
Simon of Glaisdale, L.
Slim, V.
Soulsby of Swaffham Prior, L.
Strange, B.
Strathclyde, L. [Teller.]
Strathcona and Mount Royal, L.
Swansea, L.
Swinfen, L.
Terrington, L.
Teviot, L.
Thomas of Gwydir, L.
Trefgarne, L.
Trumpington, B.
Ullswater, V.
Vivian, L.
Wade of Chorlton, L.
Westbury, L.
Wilcox, B.
Young, B.

Resolved in the negative, and amendment disagreed to accordingly.

12 Mar 1996 : Column 754

Baroness Miller of Hendon: I beg to move that the House do now resume.

Moved accordingly, and, on Question, Motion agreed to.

House resumed.


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