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Baroness Oppenheim-Barnes: Perhaps I may say to the Minister that I am extremely flattered to be described as a member of the Women's Institute. I am not, but as he described us collectively as that, I might as well say that at all times I found members of the institute to be excellent. I consulted the institute on almost every consumer matter on which I had to have
Lord Sainsbury of Turville: I should hate it if my comments were thought to be in any way derogatory of the Women's Institute. I was in fact suggesting that it would be a good development for the House if such an infiltration took place.
I was asked about the appointments to the postal services commission. First, perhaps I may say that those appointed seem to be admirable people. I can assure the noble Lord that those are all the appointments to the postal services commission. I was asked about the five-year term. We believe that an appointment should not last longer than that, but there may well be circumstances in which a person does very well on the commission and the Government would wish to appoint him a second time. That would seem to me to be a perfectly reasonable position in these circumstances. The reason is that the person should come up for re-appointment. The appointment should not go on longer, but people should not be excluded from being re-appointed simply because they have already served one term.
Lord Skelmersdale: This is Committee stage so I am allowed to speak again and cross-question the Minister. He did not refer to my point about the anomaly of a chief executive seeming to have a hand in the appointment of himself. I wonder whether the noble Lord can help me on that point.
Lord Sainsbury of Turville: I am not certain that I understand the point that is being made. The commission appoints the chief executive. In that sense, it seems to me to be perfectly sensible that the commission should do that.
Lord Skelmersdale: I think I am right in saying that "the Secretary of State", when referred to in legislation, means any Secretary of State. Therefore, although the Minister refers to the department in this instance--indeed, one can kick off with the department advising the current Secretary of State or any Secretary of State at the moment for the Department of Trade and Industry--in theory, anyway, any Minister so designated as a Secretary of State could conduct activities under the Bill. Is that not the case?
Baroness Miller of Hendon: My only comment on this matter would be--I would not question the advice that would come from the Cabinet Office, and I would accept obviously that that would be brought back here--that the Bill has been through the House of Commons. Why was it not felt necessary to deal with the matter then? Why has this come out as an afterthought, as it were?
Viscount Goschen: Before the Minister responds, can he advise the Committee whether the other references in the Bill to the "Minister for the Civil Service" still stand and are still valid? Can the Minister explain to the Committee whether that is a known statutory position, unlike the term "Secretary of State" which is well understood in legislation? Have there been precedents where the office of Minister for the Civil Service has been referred to?
Baroness Oppenheim-Barnes: This schedule relates to the appointment of the members. Can the Minister say whether any current members of POUNC have been approached to see whether they are willing to be appointed? They have the background knowledge and they have been serving consumers extremely well. I do not think that anyone in either House has paid a tribute to them, so on this occasion I should like to do so. I should like to ask the Minister whether such an idea has been considered.
Lord Sainsbury of Turville: The noble Viscount asked whether it is usual to refer to the Minister for the Civil Service in these terms. As the provision has now been taken out of the Bill and replaced by the "Secretary of State", I think that the point no longer arises.
Viscount Goschen: With the greatest respect to the Minister, there are other places in the Bill--for example, line 12 on page 77--where there is reference to the Minister for the Civil Service. I do not believe that that reference is covered by the amendment.
Viscount Goschen: With the greatest respect, there appears to be some confusion. The Minister has said that the references will be changed, but clearly there are some references that are not addressed by the amendment. Does the Minister consider that those references should be changed by further amendments, or does he believe that the references to the Minister for the Civil Service are now correct?
Lord Sainsbury of Turville: With this amendment we are changing the person who makes the decision. The references to the Minister for the Civil Service, as they apply to him, stand; but in this particular case the person who takes the decision has been changed.
Baroness Miller of Hendon: I find the Minister's explanation somewhat confusing. I accept that the Minister may not be confused, but I am. I would be happy if he could clarify the matter for me. My noble friend pointed to the fact that on page 77, in lines 5 and 6, in the paragraph dealing with staff, the Cabinet Office has advised the Minister that the reference to the Minister for the Civil Service to be changed to the Secretary of State. However, only a few lines later it says that,
There is no reason to change other references to the Minister for the Civil Service. In this amendment we are changing the person who will take the decisions. That seems to be a perfectly reasonable thing to do if, as in this case, on the basis of fresh advice, it becomes clear that he is the person who decides. That is not an unreasonable position to take.
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