Previous Section Back to Table of Contents Lords Hansard Home Page

Lord Tanlaw: My Lords, that is not what I suggested. I suggested that a time zone, British civil time, be called Greenwich Meridian Time, based on the Meridian at Greenwich, which would cover 15 degrees east or west of Greenwich, that is the central parts of Europe. I did not confuse it with UTC.

Lord Haskel: My Lords, I thank the noble Lord for pointing out that matter. I shall write to him regarding that suggestion when I have looked at it in detail.

The millennium is an important occasion and it is only right that we look at what may happen. A thousand years ago ignorance and superstition were such that people thought the world would end at the end of the first millennium; indeed, preparations were made for that event. At the second millennium we are at least looking forward to the future. We are using the power of our knowledge, curiosity, imagination and audacity to see what the future holds in store. We can anticipate the future, but we cannot necessarily predict it. That is what we hope the Millennium Dome and the Millennium Experience will do.

As the celebration of the millennium is also a time to celebrate technological and engineering achievements, it is right that the celebration should be in Greenwich, which is the birthplace of the science of accurate navigation and time measurement; and this was achieved in a wonderful spirit of enlarging and extending science. Over the centuries it has effected every aspect of our lives.

4 Mar 1998 : Column 1290

I urge noble Lords to look up from the strips marking the lines of longitude at Greenwich and join the right reverend Prelate in recognising what a wonderful feat of engineering and technological achievement the Dome will be. I cannot agree with the noble Lord, Lord Tanlaw, that it can be likened to Roman games because the Dome will be the largest cable and fabric building ever built, covering 20 acres and standing 50 metres high. It will reflect those things that will make a difference to our lives, not only science and technology but pride in our achievements, our ingenuity and creativity, our bravery and sense of justice and fair play, our modernity and confidence in the future.

I agree with the right reverend Prelate that dates and times are secondary. He is concerned that the Churches should be involved in the plans for a national millennium celebration. The Lambeth Group has been set up to ensure that the millennium celebrations are accessible and of relevance to all parts of our multi-faith society. The group involves the Department for Culture, Media and Sport, the Millennium Commission, the New Millennium Experience Company, the main Christian denominations, ecumenical bodies and representatives of other faiths.

The right reverend Prelate spoke of the Churches' new start. They have their own full programme of events focused on Pentecost 2000. The government are discussing with the churches the timing and location of national church services to mark the millennium.

The Millennium Commission is funding a wide variety of church projects which benefit the entire community and will help with what the right reverend Prelate called "people regeneration" in the Church and elsewhere. The necessity to create jobs and improve the environment, to which he referred, are not just matters for the millennium but for all time. The Government take that as a serious part of their task.

I thank the noble Lord, Lord Tanlaw, for putting down this Question and giving us the opportunity to explain the scientific facts. I thank the right reverend Prelate for introducing the more spiritual aspects of celebrating the millennium. That is a topical and important matter. I thank noble Lords for their contributions.

        House adjourned at fourteen minutes past nine o'clock.

4 Mar 1998 : Column 69

Official Report of the Grand Committee on the Bank of England Bill

Wednesday, 4th March 1998.

The Committee met at half-past three of the clock.

[The Principal Deputy Chairman of Committees (Lord Tordoff) in the Chair.]

Clause 12 [Specification of matters relevant to objectives]:

Lord Peston moved Amendment No. 20:

Page 5, line 30, leave out ("the House of Commons") and insert ("Parliament").

The noble Lord said: Amendment No. 20 is grouped with Amendment No. 21, but I shall speak only to the amendment in my name and that of my noble friend. I hope there is nothing controversial about this, and I am not accused of being very prickly. However when I read "the House of Commons" in the Bill I assumed this was simply an oversight rather than a deliberate attempt on the part of the draftsman to insult your Lordships. It seems to me that the Government must have meant "Parliament", and therefore I put down this amendment in order to make the Bill say what the Government must have meant. I beg to move.

Lord Mackay of Ardbrecknish: I support the amendment in the name of the noble Lord, Lord Peston, and the noble Lord, Lord Barnett. Indeed, if I had noticed it I would have added my name to that amendment.

My amendment, Amendment No. 21, which is grouped with Amendment No. 20, is simply an attempt to draw out from the Minister the timing involved. One could imagine laying a copy of this letter before the House of Commons or Parliament some considerable time after it had been written, so I have put in,

    "as soon as practicable after the notice has been issued to the Bank".

That is very broad. I accept that it may not be practical to do that the next day or the next week, and there may be compelling reasons for not doing so, but I would like some indication from the Government, even an assurance on the record, that the Government would lay the letter before Parliament as quickly as possible.

Lord McIntosh of Haringey: Let us start today's proceedings in a good spirit. We accept my noble friend's amendment. Whoever it was--and I do not know--who put "the House of Commons" will be taken out to the courtyard in the centre of the Treasury building and publicly flogged, and your Lordships will be invited. However, I emphasise that we have not yet found out who it is, and probably will not.

The amendment of the noble Lord, Lord Mackay, deals with the same subject. It would not otherwise have been grouped with Amendment No. 20. However, it is unnecessary. Typically, we stated that we would be

4 Mar 1998 : Column CWH70

announcing changes of this sort, as has been the practice, in the Budget and, as the noble Lord knows, the Budget is accompanied by full documentation--excessively full documentation--which is made available as soon as the Chancellor sits down. We do that in the context of strenuous efforts by the Government to improve the transparency of policy-making. We have introduced the Pre-Budget Report in which many of the issues which will arise in the Budget are discussed. In particular, in the Pre-Budget Report we have announced our intention to publish a code for fiscal stability, which will enshrine in legislation rules for reporting on the public finances. It will also include a statement of how the Government intend to operate fiscal policy, both in the short term and in the long term. I believe the Committee would agree that we are not being negligent on the issue of transparency.

With the assurance that we will always do this as soon as practicable, and when, as is normal, it is done in the Budget it will be done immediately. I hope that the noble Lord will feel able to withdraw his amendment.

On Question, amendment agreed to.

[Amendment No. 21 not moved.]

Clause 12, as amended, agreed to.

Clause 13 [Monetary Policy Committee]:

Lord Mackay of Ardbrecknish moved Amendment No. 22:

Page 5, line 37, leave out from ("Bank") to (", and") in line 38.

The noble Lord said: We now move to Clause 13, where the Bill outlines details of those who will be the members of the Monetary Policy Committee. This is one of three amendments which are linked, which are all concerned with the method of appointment of the members of the committee. As I pointed out on Second Reading, the appointment of all the members of the committee seem to involve the Chancellor's hand, either directly or indirectly. I have tabled a number of amendments which I hope might achieve a slightly more independent look to the Bank--that is, independent of the Chancellor.

Amendment No. 22 is the first of those amendments. It deals with the two members who are to be appointed by the Governor of the Bank after consultation with the Chancellor of the Exchequer. Those two members are described in Clause 13(3) which states:

    "(a) one shall be a person who has executive responsibility within the Bank for monetary policy analysis, and

    (b) the other shall be a person who has executive responsibility within the Bank for monetary policy operations".

I am puzzled as to what point in time the Chancellor will have a hand in the appointment. Will he have a hand in the appointment of the executive whose responsibility within the Bank is for monetary policy analysis, or will he have a hand in the appointment of taking that executive, or perhaps another, and putting him on the MPC, or will it be done simultaneously? It seems to me that if the Bank is appointing somebody who will have these executive functions, appointments

4 Mar 1998 : Column CWH71

will be made from a fairly narrow field of experts, and I do not think we need the words,

Next Section Back to Table of Contents Lords Hansard Home Page