Previous Section Back to Table of Contents Lords Hansard Home Page


Baroness Blatch: My Lords, I am grateful for that reply and wonder whether the noble Lord will accept my warmest congratulations that on this issue, and in the British interest, the Government are prepared to stand isolated in Europe. Does he, on behalf of the Government, agree with Hans Eichel who says that the United Kingdom's refusal to accept a withholding tax in Europe is undermining the euro?

Lord McIntosh of Haringey: My Lords, Her Majesty's Government disagree with Herr Eichel. We understand that Germany has particular problems with its citizens who use overseas investments to evade legitimate German tax. That may be an explanation of his statement, but it does not excuse what he said.

Lord Bruce of Donington: My Lords, while expressing complete support for my noble friend's robust attitude to this issue, I ask him whether he will assure us that the Government as a whole have fully taken into account the recent speech of the President of the Commission addressed in impertinent and most insulting terms to the United Kingdom and that they will resist the endeavours which he has avowed personally to make in order to have the unanimity vote abolished.

Lord McIntosh of Haringey: My Lords, I shall not participate in a personal attack on the President of the European Commission. The unanimity rule is not at issue when considering the withholding tax. There is a unanimity rule and we intend to adhere to it.

Lord Saatchi: My Lords, I cannot see from this angle and would like to know whether the Minister really has a ball and chain around his leg. We, who know him well, know that he should not be described as having a ball and chain and we want to dissociate ourselves from that remark.

In order to avoid such remarks by the German Chancellor, will he try to persuade the Prime Minister not to be such a flirt? Why in October 1998 did the Prime Minister sign the document published by the Party of European Socialists entitled The New European Way? Why did he then say that he would

2 Dec 1999 : Column 915

make efforts to avoid harmful tax competition? Why did he say that he would be aiming to co-ordinate savings and corporate taxation?

Noble Lords: Reading!

Lord Saatchi: My Lords, why on Monday did he tell the Finnish Finance Minister that he had no ideological objections to tax harmonisation? Could the Minister tell us that?

Lord McIntosh of Haringey: My Lords, I have no objection to the noble Lord, Lord Saatchi, reading as long as he continues to read the words of the Prime Minister. That seems entirely legitimate. The Prime Minister's speeches, from which the noble Lord has given a selective summary, cover a much wider range of issues than the withholding tax. We have always said that there are virtues in measures to restrain harmful tax competition and that is the basis on which the Prime Minister and the Government were and are prepared to co-operate. However, we are not prepared to co-operate on a withholding tax which will damage British and other European financial markets.

Baroness Sharp of Guildford: My Lords, given that the Minister has rightly pointed out that part of the problem springs from tax evasion in relation to German investments, can he say what efforts the Government are making to put pressure on the German, Swiss and Luxembourg Governments to move away from their strict banking secrecy laws? Furthermore, what are the Government doing about money laundering in some of the tax havens which are Crown territories?

Lord McIntosh of Haringey: My Lords, the Government have taken an active part in urging those countries which retain what we consider to be outdated banking secrecy laws not to do so. We believe that such laws are a significant cause of the abuses suffered by some EU member states. As regards securities outside Europe, that is a matter for another forum.

Lord Stoddart of Swindon: My Lords, is my noble friend aware that I am most happy to be able to congratulate him and the Government on their stance relating to the withholding tax? I sincerely hope that they will stick to it and not give way at the last moment, as has so often happened in the past. Will my noble friend confirm that in September last year the Government indicated that even the threat of a withholding tax was resulting in a flow of money away from the EU, particularly from London? Finally, I assure my noble friend that, if the Government continue to resist a withholding tax, they will have the support not only of this House but of the people of this country?

Lord McIntosh of Haringey: My Lords, I do not know whether that is a threat or a promise!

2 Dec 1999 : Column 916

Business

3.37 p.m.

Lord Carter: My Lords, it may be for the convenience of the House to know that, subject as always to the progress of business, the House will rise for the Christmas Recess at the end of business on Thursday, 16th December. The House will sit at 11 a.m. on that day. The House will return from the Christmas Recess on Monday, 10th January.

Lord Henley: My Lords, I congratulate the noble Lord the Government Chief Whip on making that announcement, which will greatly please the House. I also congratulate the noble Lord on his powers in persuading his colleagues in certain government departments to bring forward a number of First Readings in time to allow us to rise on Thursday, 16th December.

I wish to raise a matter which was brought to my attention only a few minutes before the House sat today, about which I have given the noble Lord notice. On Monday next, we shall have the Second Reading of the Local Government Bill. We have still not had the Government's response to the Joint Committee report on the draft local government organisation and standards Bill, which they received a month ago. The view shared by many on all sides of the House is that it would not be right for us to debate the matter without the Government's response to that Joint Committee report.

Lord Carter: My Lords, I was unaware of the matter raised by the noble Lord and intended to say that I would consult ministerial colleagues. However, I have just been informed that the document is now in the Printed Paper Office.

Lord Henley: My Lords, I went into the Printed Paper Office with the noble Earl, Lord Carnarvon, just before Question Time. We were informed that the document was in the office but was under embargo. It may be that Members of the Government Front Bench have copies, but it seems inadequate if other Members of the House are not allowed to have them.

Lord Carter: My Lords, I understand that the document is available to all Members of the House.

Care Standards Bill [H.L.]

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Department of Health (Lord Hunt of Kings Heath): My Lords, I beg to introduce a Bill to establish a national care standards commission; to make provision for the registration and regulation of children's homes, independent hospitals, independent clinics, care homes, residential family centres, domiciliary care agencies, fostering agencies and voluntary adoption agencies; to make provision for the regulation and inspection of local authority

2 Dec 1999 : Column 917

fostering and adoption services; to establish a general social care council and a care council for Wales and make provision for the registration, regulation and training of social care workers; to make provision for the registration, regulation and training of those providing child minding or day care; to make provision for the protection of children and vulnerable adults; to amend the law about children looked after in schools and colleges; to repeal the Nurses Agencies Act 1957; and for connected purposes. I beg to move that the Bill be now read a first time.

Moved, That the Bill be now read a first time.--(Lord Hunt of Kings Heath.)

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

Race Relations (Amendment) Bill [H.L.]

Lord Bassam of Brighton: My Lords, I beg to introduce a Bill to extend further the application of the Race Relations Act 1976 to the police and other public authorities; to amend the exemption under that Act for acts done for the purpose of safeguarding national security; and for connected purposes. I beg to move that the Bill be now read a first time.

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

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

Succession to the Crown (Amendment)

3.40 p.m.

Lord Forsyth of Drumlean: My Lords, I beg to move the Motion standing in my name on the Order Paper.

Moved, That an humble Address be presented to Her Majesty praying that Her Majesty may be graciously pleased to allow that Her undoubted prerogative and interest may not stand in the way of the consideration by Parliament during the present Session of any measure to remove the bar on a person who is not, or who is married to a person who is not, a Protestant to succeed to the Crown, and for connected purposes.--(Lord Forsyth of Drumlean.)

Lord St John of Fawsley: My Lords, I have taken advice on this matter both from the learned Clerks and from the Chairman of Committees and this is a debatable Motion. Nevertheless, I shall speak only briefly. I do not wish to go into the substance of the issue, but rather to the modalities; namely, whether this is a correctly-worded form of Address and

2 Dec 1999 : Column 918

whether it is an appropriate way of raising a major constitutional issue.

First, I turn to the wording. In a matter of such importance the wording is all-important. It refers to removing a bar against succession to the Throne of a person who is married to a person who is not a Protestant. No such bar exists; the Act of Settlement 1700 forbids succession to the Throne of anyone who marries a papist. I do not object to the word "papist", but regard it as a term of honour. That is the wording, and the wording is vital. The Act says that if one marries a papist one is out of the royal stakes; but if one is married to a papist--that is, if he or she becomes a Catholic after marriage--there is no bar. That is contradicted by the Address. It is not an academic legal point. The Duke of Kent is married to a lady who, some years after the marriage, became a Roman Catholic. The Duke in no way lost his right of succession to the Throne. The Palace made it plain that that was the situation at the time. The Duke and his children in no way are deprived of their rights of succession. Therefore, I submit that the wording of the Address is fatally flawed.

My second point is that this is a matter of extreme complexity. The status of the Sovereign's Coronation Oath, made in 1952, is brought into the issue. The Address involves the amending of not only one statute, but of many, including the Act of Union with Scotland of 1706. Under the Statute of Westminster 1931, if the Address were to lead to legislation, that legislation would have to be approved by all the relevant Commonwealth governments and by their parliaments. Therefore I ask your Lordships to draw the conclusion that surely such a major matter is best set in train--and should be set in train--by the Government and Opposition parties officially acting together and not by a single Peer, even one so respected as my noble friend, whose intentions are beyond reproach.

Therefore, before we go through another period of debate, I ask my noble friend to consider the institution which I am sure he is seeking to benefit. The Crown has been through an unparalleled period of turmoil, and it has emerged successfully. It now needs a period of tranquillity, consolidation and peace. I repeat to my noble friend the words of a great Prime Minister, Lord Melbourne: "Why cannot you let it alone?"


Next Section Back to Table of Contents Lords Hansard Home Page