Previous Section Back to Table of Contents Lords Hansard Home Page


Business of the House: Motions this Day

3.7 p.m.

Lord Carter: My Lords, on behalf of my noble friend the Leader of the House, I beg to move the Motion standing in her name on the Order Paper.

Moved, That, unless any Lord objects, leave be given to the Chairman of Committees to move the seven Motions standing in his name relating to the appointment of Select Committees and the panel of Deputy Chairmen en bloc.--(Lord Carter.)

On Question, Motion agreed to.

Limited Liability Partnerships Bill [H.L.]

Lord McIntosh of Haringey: My Lords, I beg to introduce a Bill to make provision for limited liability partnerships. I beg to move that this Bill be now read a first time.

Moved, That the Bill be now read a first time.--(Lord McIntosh of Haringey.)

On Question, Bill read a first time, and to be printed.

Areas of Outstanding Natural Beauty Bill [H.L.]

Lord Renton of Mount Harry: My Lords, I beg to introduce a Bill to make new provision in relation to areas of outstanding natural beauty. I beg to move that this Bill be now read a first time.

Moved, That the Bill be now read a first time.--(Lord Renton of Mount Harry.)

On Question, Bill read a first time, and to be printed.

Examiner of Petitions for Private Bills

3.8 p.m.

The Chairman of Committees (Lord Boston of Faversham): My Lords, I beg to move the first Motion standing in my name on the Order Paper.

Moved, That, pursuant to Private Business Standing Order 69, Ms H E Irwin be appointed an Examiner of Petitions for Private Bills in place of Mr W A Proctor.--(The Chairman of Committees.)

On Question, Motion agreed to.

23 Nov 1999 : Column 321

Statutory Instruments: Select Committee

Delegated Powers and Deregulation: Select Committee

House of Lords Offices: Select Committee

Liaison Committee: Select Committee

Privileges: Select Committee

Personal Bills: Select Committee

Deputy Chairmen of Committees

The Chairman of Committees: My Lords, I beg to move that the seven Motions relating to the appointment of Select Committees and the panel of Deputy Chairmen be agreed to en bloc.

--Moved, That pursuant to Standing Order 73 and the Resolution of the House of 16th December 1997, That as proposed by the Committee of Selection the following Lords be appointed to join with a Committee of the Commons as the Joint Committee on Statutory Instruments:

L. Burnham,

L. Greenway,

L. Hardy of Wath,

L. Skelmersdale,

L. Thomas of Gresford,

L. Vivian,

L. Walker of Doncaster;

and that the committee do meet with any committee appointed by the Commons this day at a quarter-past four o'clock.

--Moved, That a Select Committee be appointed to report whether the provisions of any Bill inappropriately delegate legislative power, or whether they subject the exercise of legislative power to an inappropriate degree of parliamentary scrutiny; to report on documents laid before Parliament under Section 3(3) of the Deregulation and Contracting Out Act 1994 and on draft orders laid under Section 1(4) of that Act; and to perform, in respect of such documents and orders, the functions performed in respect of other instruments by the Joint Committee on Statutory Instruments;

That, as proposed by the Committee of Selection, the following Lords be named of the committee:

L. Alexander of Weedon, (Chairman)

L. Ampthill,

L. Dahrendorf,

L. Goodhart,

L. Hogg of Cumbernauld,

L. Mayhew of Twysden,

23 Nov 1999 : Column 322

L. Merlyn-Rees,

L. Prys-Davies,

L. Waddington;

That the committee have power to appoint sub-committees;

That the committee and any sub-committee have power to adjourn from place to place within the United Kingdom;

That the committee have power to co-opt any Lord for the purpose of serving on the committee or a sub-committee;

That the committee have power to appoint specialist advisers;

That the minutes of evidence taken before the committee or any sub-committee shall, if the committee think fit, be printed and delivered out;

That the committee do meet on Wednesday 1st December at half-past ten o'clock.

--Moved, That the Select Committee on the House of Lords Offices be appointed and that, as proposed by the Committee of Selection, the following Lords together with the Chairman of Committees be named of the committee:

E. Caithness,

L. Carter,

L. Chalfont,

L. Colwyn,

L. Dholakia,

L. Dixon,

L. Elton,

L. Gilbert,

L. Harris of Greenwich,

L. Henley,

B. Hilton of Eggardon,

L. Hunt of Wirral,

L. Irvine of Lairg, (Lord Chancellor)

B. Jay of Paddington,

L. Laming,

L. Mackay of Ardbrecknish,

L. Marsh,

Bp. Oxford,

L. Renfrew of Kaimsthorn,

L. Rodgers of Quarry Bank,

B. Seccombe,

B. Serota,

L. Strathclyde,

B. Thomas of Walliswood,

L. Tordoff,

L. Weatherill,

L. Williams of Mostyn.

--Moved, That a Select Committee be appointed to advise the House on the resources required for Select Committee work and to allocate resources between Select Committees; to review the Select Committee work of the House; to consider requests for ad hoc committees and report to the House with recommendations; to ensure effective co-ordination between the two Houses; and to consider the availability of Lords to serve on committees;

23 Nov 1999 : Column 323

That as proposed by the Committee of Selection the following Lords together with the Chairman of Committees be named of the committee:

L. Clinton-Davis,

V. Colville of Culross,

B. Jay of Paddington,

L. Kimball,

B. Pitkeathley,

L. Rodgers of Quarry Bank,

L. Strathclyde,

L. Weatherill,

L. Wigoder,

B. Young;

That the committee have leave to report from time to time;

That the committee have power to appoint specialist advisers.

--Moved, That a Committee for Privileges be appointed and that, as proposed by the Committee of Selection, the following Lords together with the Chairman of Committees and any four Lords of Appeal be named of the committee:

L. Allen of Abbeydale,

L. Carter,

L. Cledwyn of Penrhos,

V. Cranborne,

L. Glenamara,

L. Henley,

B. Jay of Paddington,

L. Mackay of Clashfern,

L. Marsh,

L. Mayhew of Twysden,

L. Rodgers of Quarry Bank,

L. Strabolgi,

L. Strathclyde,

L. Weatherill,

L. Wigoder;

That the committee have power to appoint sub-committees and that such sub-committees have power to appoint their own chairman; and

That the committee have power to co-opt any Lord for the purposes of serving on any sub-committee.

That a Select Committee be appointed to consider personal Bills and that, as proposed by the Committee of Selection, the following Lords together with the Chairman of Committees be named of the committee:

L. Astor of Hever,

L. Hogg of Cumbernauld,

L. Sandberg,

L. Templeman,

L. Wilberforce.

--Moved, That, as proposed by the Committee of Selection, the following Lords be appointed as the panel of Lords to act as Deputy Chairmen of Committees for this Session:

L. Aberdare,

V. Allenby of Megiddo,

L. Ampthill,

L. Brougham of Vaux,

L. Burnham,

23 Nov 1999 : Column 324

L. Carter,

L. Cocks of Hartcliffe,

B. Cox,

L. Dean of Harptree,

L. Elliot of Morpeth,

L. Elton,

B. Gardner of Parkes,

L. Graham of Edmonton,

L. Henley,

B. Hooper,

B. Lockwood,

L. Lofthouse of Pontefract,

L. Lyell,

L. McColl of Dulwich,

L. McIntosh of Haringey,

C. Mar,

L. Methuen,

L. Murton of Lindisfarne,

B. Nicol,

V. Oxfuird,

B. Serota,

V. Simon,

L. Skelmersdale,

L. Strabolgi,

B. Turner of Camden.--(The Chairman of Committees.)

On Question, Motion agreed to.

Address in Reply to Her Majesty's Most Gracious Speech

3.9 p.m.

Debate resumed on the Motion moved on Wednesday last by the Baroness Pitkeathley--namely, That an humble Address be presented to Her Majesty as follows--

    "Most Gracious Sovereign--We, Your Majesty's most dutiful and loyal subjects, the Lords Spiritual and Temporal in Parliament assembled, beg leave to thank Your Majesty for the most gracious Speech which Your Majesty has addressed to both Houses of Parliament",

and on the amendment moved by the Lord Strathclyde, at the end of the Address to insert,

"but regret the failure of Your Majesty's Government to reduce the burden of taxation and regulation and deplore the incoherence and the lack of vision of the measures proposed by Your Majesty's Government for the coming Session of Parliament".

The Minister for Science, Department of Trade and Industry (Lord Sainsbury of Turville): My Lords, the challenges facing industry are as great as they have ever been. The Government are determined to provide industry with the most beneficial environment possible, an environment that stimulates competition while encouraging the building of capabilities and co-operation where this increases competitiveness. Our policies are designed to create an economy which combines enterprise and fairness.

23 Nov 1999 : Column 325

The impact of increased demand for services, technology and globalisation means that we are entering a new industrial world--the knowledge-driven economy. In that world Britain cannot compete solely on labour costs, raw materials or land. With unskilled physical work increasingly going to newly industrialised countries with low labour costs, our success will depend more than ever on our knowledge, skills and creativity. The most important responsibility for government in this context is to create a stable framework to allow business to plan ahead with confidence. Stability matters more than ever in the new economy because only in that environment will business invest in knowledge and take risks to stay ahead in fast-moving markets.

This Government's first priority on coming into office was to secure long-term economic stability and put an end to the damaging cycle of boom and bust which, in the late 1980s and early 1990s, saw interest rates rise to 15 per cent for a whole year. Since then we have put in place a new macro-economic framework to deliver and sustain long-term economic stability. We have damped down the inflationary pressures which were building up when we took office without sending the economy into recession. As a result, we now have a sound and credible platform of stability. We must now use this opportunity to create a high-investment, high-productivity and high-growth economy. No economy can grow sustainably unless its productivity improves. We still have a serious productivity lag compared to our main competitors. The Government have set out a clear strategy to meet the productivity challenge.

In addition to establishing macro-economic stability and improving educational standards, the Government have a key role in acting as a catalyst, investor and regulator to strengthen the supply side of the economy. We have already put in place a significant number of measures to provide the best possible environment for UK industry. We have cut corporation tax rates to 30, 20 and 10 per cent, their lowest ever level and the lowest among our major competitors, allowing companies to retain more of their profits for reinvestment and growth. Moreover, we have provided added certainty for firms taking long-term investment decisions by committing not to raise corporation tax rates for the lifetime of this Parliament.

Further measures were included in the Chancellor's pre-Budget report. These included a widely welcomed reform of capital gains tax, building on the 1998 Budget changes, to encourage investment. The Chancellor and my right honourable friend the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry also announced decisions on proposals to boost enterprise and innovation. Corporate venturing tax relief, enterprise management incentives, the new all-employee share scheme and a research and development tax credit for SMEs will all contribute to a policy environment which encourages enterprise.

The new knowledge-driven economy depends critically on the creation of world-class ideas, breakthrough technology and high-value businesses

23 Nov 1999 : Column 326

coming out of the science base. So last year the Chancellor set up the highly successful University Challenge Fund to capitalise on the excellent ideas being put forward by science and engineering researchers in our universities and help turn these into viable business prospects. Awards were announced in March totalling £45 million to 15 university-based consortia spread across the country. The Government have recently made an extra £10 million available towards a follow-up competition.

A second important initiative we have taken is the £25 million Science Enterprise Challenge. Eight new centres of expertise, including a consortium of Sheffield, Leeds and York universities, have been endowed to bring the new teaching of entrepreneurship and business skills into the science curriculum, helping to inspire and equip scientists and engineers to commercialise their knowledge. These centres will also benefit from the new Cambridge-MIT initiative recently announced by the Chancellor.

The Conservative Budget of 1995 imposed swingeing cuts across the science base. Capital funding for university research was cut by 30 per cent in 1996, projected to become 50 per cent in 1998. On entering office, Labour inherited a science budget that was due to fall by 5 per cent over the next two years. One of our priorities was to reverse that trend.

Increasingly, R&D is a key component of the innovation process, leading to new and innovative products, services and processes. In recognition of this, the Government are, in partnership with the Wellcome Trust, providing an extra £1.4 billion for research and infrastructure over three years. Taking the government contribution alone, this represents a science budget increase of some 15 per cent in real terms by 2001-02. In addition, the DTI will increase its innovation budget by some 20 per cent to nearly £230 million in 2001-02 to help support R&D.

In addition, we are establishing the small business service to create a single gateway for access to government information for small businesses--including start-ups and micro-businesses.

The Government are also determined to play their part by promoting greater competition, principally by empowering consumers but through regulation where necessary. One example is the promotion of more competition in energy markets. We shall be taking further steps to enhance such competition in the utilities Bill this Session. The Government will also provide the Office of Fair Trading with an extra £15 million over three years to enforce new regulation and will enable the OFT to exercise stronger powers.

Getting employment relations right is central to our determination to promote fairness as well as enterprise. The Employment Relations Act, which received Royal Assent in July, establishes a balanced framework of rights and duties. It provides minimum standards of fair treatment for workers while at the same time recognising the need to minimise the burdens on business, including small firms. Successful businesses require a flexible labour market in order to

23 Nov 1999 : Column 327

adapt to change and work more efficiently. But this flexibility should not be achieved by removing all rights from the workforce.

It is with this in mind that the Government are building a framework of minimum standards for employees. We have implemented the working time and young workers directive, giving workers for the first time minimum holiday entitlements and rest periods. We have introduced the national minimum wage, which the CBI has commended as being set at a prudent level and effectively enforced, a concrete example of the Government's light-touch approach to implementing employment legislation. We have brought in the New Deal to ensure that everyone in our society has the opportunity to realise their potential.

We have created rights for 6 million part-time workers, parental leave for over 3 million people, and paid holiday for 2.5 million workers. From today, over 3 million workers will benefit when the right to paid annual leave is increased from three to four weeks. We have achieved a great deal, but more remains to be done.

We are continuing to take steps to reduce the tax burden. The tax/GDP ratio as published in the Red Book is falling--from 37.2 per cent in 1998-99 to 36.6 per cent in 1999-00. The 1999 Budget cut taxes by £4 billion, making the average family £380 better off a year.

We are also determined to tackle the burden of regulation, which can pose a serious problem for small businesses. That is one of the main reasons for setting up the new small business service which will help small firms with regulation and ensure that small firms' interests are properly considered in future regulation.

We announced a tougher approach to regulatory control in the Modernising Government White Paper in March. Our aim is to eliminate unnecessary regulation and minimise the burdens imposed by that regulation which is necessary. We have now strengthened the regulatory control systems still further by setting up a panel, chaired by my right honourable friend the Minister for the Cabinet Office, to call Ministers to account for a department's regulatory performance.

We shall also bring forward legislation this Session to extend the deregulation order-making power, enabling more burdens to be removed without the need for primary legislation.

The challenges of the knowledge economy are not limited to high-tech start-ups and the south-east. Its challenges and opportunities will affect every business in every region, including manufacturing. Manufacturing is a crucial part of the knowledge-driven economy. Successful manufacturing today, as much as any other sector, uses the knowledge, skills and creativity of the workforce, business partners and the science base to keep ahead of the competition. That is why the Department of Trade and Industry published yesterday a report on Manufacturing in the knowledge driven economy. This celebrates the success of some of our leading manufacturers and announces

23 Nov 1999 : Column 328

an "Agenda for action" setting out what the Government are doing and plan to do, working with others, to help manufacturing compete in the future.

In addition, through the Foresight process and in particular the work of the Manufacturing 2020 Panel, we are identifying the key issues that will shape the future of UK manufacturing and the action that we--business and government--should be taking to address them.

Another key component of our ability to succeed as a knowledge-driven economy is the part that universities can play in raising our competitiveness. We see universities as being at the heart of the knowledge-driven economy, not as an irrelevance to the productive economy as the previous government did.

The UK has a world-class research base in the areas of science, engineering and design. In some industries, such as pharmaceuticals, aerospace and biotechnology, which depend on elite science, we have translated that excellence into world-class competitiveness. But there are clearly many more industries that could benefit from closer ties with our science and technology base. The challenge is to tackle the weaknesses in exploitation while maintaining, and indeed improving, the excellence of the research outputs. Basic research must continue to flourish, but the UK also needs to excel at knowledge transfer.

We are also determined that all regions participate in our increasing prosperity. That is why we shall be working closely with all the RDAs to stimulate innovation in their regions and ensure that prosperity is shared by the many, not the few. Regional development agencies are identifying the regions' particular strengths in the knowledge-driven economy and building strategies around them. We will work with them in taking those strategies forward.

Based on action to secure a platform of economic stability and steady growth, we will continue to deliver on our pledges with Bills on enterprise and on fairness. The measures we introduce in this Parliament will constitute a radical and reforming programme, creating a modern Britain.

The Government are committed to modernising markets and getting regulation right for new and developing markets. We are determined to make the UK the best place in the world for electronic commerce by 2002. As part of our programme of legislation this Session we have introduced the Electronic Communications Bill to promote e-commerce and modernise the statute book. The Bill also underpins our Modernising Government agenda by helping to meet the Prime Minister's target of 25 per cent of government services available electronically by 2002, rising to 100 per cent by 2008.

The Bill has been developed in close consultation with industry and has been widely welcomed. It will create confidence in doing business and communicating with government electronically. Under the legislation, users will be able to place greater reliance on electronic signatures because it will be clear that the courts can recognise such signatures. The Bill

23 Nov 1999 : Column 329

will give the Government the ability to sweep away obstacles in existing laws which insist on the use of paper and other formalities, such as sealing, wherever it makes sense to do so, to give people an electronic option.

The Government are working closely with the Alliance for Electronic Business on a self-regulatory scheme, bringing together providers and users, including consumers, to ensure minimum standards of quality and service. The Government's strong preference is for self-regulation, and we intend to hold the statutory powers in the Bill in reserve in case self-regulation fails. These powers are subject to a sunset clause and will lapse if not used within five years.

I have spoken of our commitment to promoting fairness and the importance we attach to competition. Water, energy and telecommunications are among the essentials of everyday life. Consumers must have an efficient supply of these services on fair terms and, wherever possible, with a choice of supplier.

The Government intend to bring forward a utilities Bill to establish a modern, transparent and accountable framework for the regulation of the gas, electricity, telecom and water sectors, with the interests of consumers at its heart. The utilities Bill will demonstrate our commitment to consumers and to competition by giving the regulators a new primary duty to protect the consumer interest, wherever possible and appropriate through promoting effective competition. By this legislation, we will bring the regulatory framework up to date. To ensure that it remains so it will be made flexible enough to encourage, and adapt to, future market developments.

The liberalisation of energy markets has delivered real benefits to consumers in lower prices. But there are concerns that the disadvantaged may have benefited less than others. The Government are alert to those concerns. Competition must bring benefits for all. At the Government's behest, the energy regulator is finalising a social action plan designed to ensure efficiency, choice and fairness in the provision of gas and electricity to disadvantaged consumers.

The Bill will provide a framework which ensures a fairer balance between the needs of consumers and the legitimate interests of utility companies. It will ensure high-quality services for consumers and exert downward pressure on prices; it will promote further and more effective competition in utility markets.

We need to encourage enterprise in all sectors of our economy. The Government are bringing forward a Bill to enable the Post Office to improve its services and compete more effectively at home and abroad. The reforms fulfil the Government's manifesto commitment to provide greater commercial freedom for the Post Office while retaining it in public ownership and, at the same time, delivering an effective postal service that meets the commercial and social needs of the country.

The Government have no plans to privatise the Post Office. The Bill will make clear our intention that there will be no disposal of shares in the Post Office plc without further primary legislation except in

23 Nov 1999 : Column 330

circumstances where the Post Office may wish to cement a strategic alliance or joint venture through an exchange of equity or limited sale of shares.


Next Section Back to Table of Contents Lords Hansard Home Page