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Lord Warner: My Lords, will the noble Earl remember back to before 1997, when there was quite a lot of controversy, as I recall, about his government's appointments to NHS bodies? It is a bit rich to take a genuine effort by this Government to take many of these appointments out of the political arena and say that that action was simply a result of concerns about this Government's behaviour.

Earl Howe: My Lords, I am the first to acknowledge that every government want to ensure that there are people in important public positions who are broadly sympathetic to the drift of government policy. Of course that is so. However, the Minister is being a little disingenuous; there is simply no comparison, if one looks at the statistics on politically biased appointments in the current Government's time and in that of the previous Government. Yes, of course Conservatives were appointed to some positions, but there was much more of a balance in those days than a few years ago. I say no more than that.

Lord Hunt of Kings Heath: My Lords, I am grateful to the noble Earl for giving way. Is he really saying that the last government did not exercise political bias in their appointments to NHS bodies? My Lords, they did. They appointed a considerable number of Conservatives. Very few people who were identified as Labour Party members and supporters were appointed.

Earl Howe: My Lords, I have just said that of course Conservatives were appointed to key positions, but it is a matter of degree. That is the point. The blatant attempt to bias the process when this Government came to power was there for all to see. I, for one, welcomed the creation of the Appointments Commission as a means of getting us away from all that and, to a very great extent, it has done so.

The Minister rejected the analogy I attempted to make with the Bank of England, and suggested that CHAI and CSCI were simply not the kind of non-departmental public bodies which could accommodate the freedoms that I propose in these amendments. Again, I simply do not agree with him. The fact that they are public servants—

Lord Warner: My Lords, is the noble Earl aware that the chairman of the Audit Commission has his salary set by the Secretary of State? Is the noble Earl suggesting that the Audit Commission chair is not independent because his salary is set by the Secretary of State?

Earl Howe: My Lords, I do not feel the need to comment on that. The analogy I was making was with the Governor of the Bank of England. He is a public

10 Nov 2003 : Column 1108

servant, as much as the chairman of CHAI or of CSCI will be. There is a good argument for saying that if we want to make these bodies as independent and politically unbeholden as possible, we should look very seriously at the simple device of allowing these bodies to set salaries, with the veto of the Secretary of State. I am not suggesting that there should not be such a veto.

As the amendments make very clear, the Secretary of State would have a say in this. He would be able to disagree with whatever proposals he did not like, and I do not see what is wrong with that. It would be a public disagreement, but I do not see why that is undesirable.

As to the freedom to borrow, I hope I have made it clear that these proposals are simply designed as a safety valve. They would not be used in the routine course of events for capital requirements, but they could be used if needed. Again, I think that is a sensible proposal; each body would have to exercise its judgment responsibly and would be audited and examined on the strength of that judgment. It is not as if no controls or checks would be made on them.

I think we have reached an important point of disagreement between this side and the Government, and I would like to test the opinion of the House.

4.8 p.m.

On Question, Whether the said amendment (No. 272) shall be agreed to?

Their Lordships divided: Contents, 155; Not-Contents, 113.

Division No. 2

CONTENTS

Addington, L.
Alexander of Weedon, L.
Allenby of Megiddo, V.
Alton of Liverpool, L.
Anelay of St Johns, B.
Arran, E.
Astor of Hever, L.
Attlee, E.
Avebury, L.
Barker, B.
Beaumont of Whitley, L.
Biffen, L.
Blackwell, L.
Blatch, B.
Bowness, L.
Bradshaw, L.
Bridgeman, V.
Brittan of Spennithorne, L.
Brooke of Sutton Mandeville, L.
Brougham and Vaux, L.
Byford, B.
Campbell of Alloway, L.
Carnegy of Lour, B.
Chalfont, L.
Clement-Jones, L.
Coe, L.
Colville of Culross, V.
Cope of Berkeley, L. [Teller]
Craigavon, V.
Crickhowell, L.
Cuckney, L.
Cumberlege, B.
Dholakia, L.
Dixon-Smith, L.
Dundee, E.
Eden of Winton, L.
Elles, B.
Elliott of Morpeth, L.
Emerton, B.
Ezra, L.
Falkland, V.
Fearn, L.
Feldman, L.
Finlay of Llandaff, B.
Fookes, B.
Fowler, L.
Gardner of Parkes, B.
Gilmour of Craigmillar, L.
Glentoran, L.
Goodhart, L.
Gray of Contin, L.
Griffiths of Fforestfach, L.
Hamwee, B.
Hannay of Chiswick, L.
Harris of Richmond, B.
Hayhoe, L.
Henley, L.
Higgins, L.
Hodgson of Astley Abbotts, L.
Holme of Cheltenham, L.
Hooper, B.
Howarth of Breckland, B.
Howe, E.
Howe of Aberavon, L.
Howe of Idlicote, B.
Howell of Guildford, L.
Hunt of Wirral, L.
Jenkin of Roding, L.
Kimball, L.
Kingsland, L.
Kirkham, L.
Laing of Dunphail, L.
Lamont of Lerwick, L.
Listowel, E.
Liverpool, E.
Lucas, L.
Macfarlane of Bearsden, L.
MacGregor of Pulham Market, L.
Mackay of Clashfern, L.
Maddock, B.
Marsh, L.
Masham of Ilton, B.
Mayhew of Twysden, L.
Miller of Chilthorne Domer, B.
Miller of Hendon, B.
Molyneaux of Killead, L.
Monro of Langholm, L.
Montrose, D.
Mowbray and Stourton, L.
Moynihan, L.
Murton of Lindisfarne, L.
Newby, L.
Newton of Braintree, L.
Noakes, B.
Northesk, E.
Northover, B.
O'Cathain, B.
Onslow, E.
Park of Monmouth, B.
Parkinson, L.
Perry of Southwark, B.
Peyton of Yeovil, L.
Phillips of Sudbury, L.
Pilkington of Oxenford, L.
Plumb, L.
Quinton, L.
Rawlings, B.
Razzall, L.
Reay, L.
Redesdale, L.
Rees, L.
Rees-Mogg, L.
Rennard, L.
Roberts of Conwy, L.
Rodgers of Quarry Bank, L.
Roper, L.
Russell, E.
Russell-Johnston, L.
Ryder of Wensum, L.
St. John of Bletso, L.
St John of Fawsley, L.
Saltoun of Abernethy, Ly.
Sandberg, L.
Scott of Needham Market, B.
Seccombe, B. [Teller]
Sharp of Guildford, B.
Sharples, B.
Shaw of Northstead, L.
Shutt of Greetland, L.
Skelmersdale, L.
Slim, V.
Smith of Clifton, L.
Stewartby, L.
Stoddart of Swindon, L.
Strange, B.
Tanlaw, L.
Taverne, L.
Tenby, V.
Thomas of Gresford, L.
Thomas of Walliswood, B.
Thomson of Monifieth, L.
Tope, L.
Tordoff, L.
Trefgarne, L.
Trumpington, B.
Vivian, L.
Wade of Chorlton, L.
Wakeham, L.
Wallace of Saltaire, L.
Walmsley, B.
Walpole, L.
Warnock, B.
Weatherill, L.
Wigoder, L.
Wilcox, B.

NOT-CONTENTS

Acton, L.
Ahmed, L.
Alli, L.
Amos, B. (Lord President)
Andrews, B.
Archer of Sandwell, L.
Ashton of Upholland, B.
Barnett, L.
Bassam of Brighton, L.
Berkeley, L.
Bernstein of Craigweil, L.
Billingham, B.
Blackstone, B.
Borrie, L.
Bragg, L.
Brooke of Alverthorpe, L.
Brookman, L.
Burlison, L.
Campbell-Savours, L.
Carter, L.
Christopher, L.
Clarke of Hampstead, L.
Clinton-Davis, L.
Cohen of Pimlico, B.
Corbett of Castle Vale, L.
Craig of Radley, L.
Crawley, B.
Davies of Oldham, L. [Teller]
Derby, Bp.
Desai, L.
Dixon, L.
Dormand of Easington, L.
Dubs, L.
Eatwell, L.
Elder, L.
Evans of Temple Guiting, L.
Evans of Watford, L.
Falconer of Thoroton, L. (Lord Chancellor)
Farrington of Ribbleton, B.
Faulkner of Worcester, L.
Filkin, L.
Fitt, L.
Gale, B.
Gavron, L.
Gibson of Market Rasen, B.
Golding, B.
Goldsmith, L.
Gordon of Strathblane, L.
Goudie, B.
Gould of Potternewton, B.
Gregson, L.
Grocott, L. [Teller]
Harrison, L.
Haskel, L.
Hayman, B.
Hilton of Eggardon, B.
Hogg of Cumbernauld, L.
Hollis of Heigham, B.
Howells of St. Davids, B.
Hughes of Woodside, L.
Hunt of Chesterton, L.
Hunt of Kings Heath, L.
Irvine of Lairg, L.
Janner of Braunstone, L.
Jay of Paddington, B.
Joffe, L.
Jones, L.
Kennedy of The Shaws, B.
King of West Bromwich, L.
Kirkhill, L.
Lea of Crondall, L.
Lipsey, L.
Lockwood, B.
Lofthouse of Pontefract, L.
Macdonald of Tradeston, L.
McIntosh of Haringey, L.
McIntosh of Hudnall, B.
MacKenzie of Culkein, L.
Mackenzie of Framwellgate, L.
Mason of Barnsley, L.
Massey of Darwen, B.
Merlyn-Rees, L.
Mishcon, L.
Mitchell, L.
Morgan, L.
Morris of Aberavon, L.
Morris of Manchester, L.
Murray of Epping Forest, L.
Ouseley, L.
Patel of Blackburn, L.
Paul, L.
Plant of Highfield, L.
Ponsonby of Shulbrede, L.
Prys-Davies, L.
Rendell of Babergh, B.
Richard, L.
Roll of Ipsden, L.
Rooker, L.
Sainsbury of Turville, L.
Sheldon, L.
Simon, V.
Stallard, L.
Stone of Blackheath, L.
Symons of Vernham Dean, B.
Temple-Morris, L.
Thornton, B.
Tomlinson, L.
Turner of Camden, B.
Warner, L.
Warwick of Undercliffe, B.
Whitaker, B.
Wilkins, B.
Williams of Elvel, L.

Resolved in the affirmative, and amendment agreed to accordingly.

10 Nov 2003 : Column 1110

4.19 p.m.

Earl Howe: My Lords, it would be for the convenience of the House if I made clear a decision that we reached during the Division. We shall not press the amendments relating to financial freedoms; the only amendments that we shall press are the ones for which there is a wider consensus in the House and which relate to the independent appointment. I believe that the House has agreed to Amendments Nos. 272, 278, 407 and 408. I shall not move any of the other amendments.

[Amendments Nos. 273 to 277 not moved.]

Schedule 7 [CSCI: supplementary]:


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