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Lord Fraser of Carmyllie: Perhaps I may briefly make my final point. I wish the Minister would recognise the enormity of the concession I was making. Both the noble Lord, Lord Eatwell, and the noble Lord, Lord Burns, know how vehemently I argued for the international competitiveness of the United Kingdom to be placed fairly and squarely among the objectives and not to be relegated to subsection (3). What I did not recognise at the time--I wish that I had; I am quite open about that--is that I would have argued for the solution now being proposed because, dare I say it, it provides a third way. Had I known that the situation might be approached in such a way, that would have seemed to provide me with the opportunity possibly to reconcile the differing views within the Joint Committee.
Lord McIntosh of Haringey: I have huge sympathy and admiration for the noble and learned Lord's odyssey. But I must be concerned with the destination of the journey rather than the way in which it has been achieved. The amendments proposed would upset the delicate balance currently contained in the first six clauses of the Bill. Changing the nature of the competitiveness principle in that way would induce a positively dangerous lack of clarity as to how the duty which noble Lords propose be placed on the FSA would interact with the objectives on the one hand and the principles on the other. It would be neither an objective nor a principle.
As the Bill stands, subsection (1) places a positive requirement on the FSA to take action. That is appropriate when discussing objectives; that is, the aims of regulation. In contrast, the need to take account of international competitiveness is something which should condition the way in which the FSA goes about meeting the objectives. That is as true for competitiveness as it is for the other matters dealt with in Clause 2(3). Competitiveness is not something
I have made clear the importance we attach to maintaining the international competitiveness of the United Kingdom. The UK financial services industry contributes around 7 per cent of our gross domestic product; it employs over 1 million people. UK markets are world leaders with a substantial and well-deserved international reputation. That is why we have been so careful in the Bill to give the FSA the right objectives and principles and why we put in place an impressive array of accountability arrangements. I appreciate and support the outcome that the amendment seeks, but I believe that the Bill as drafted already achieves it in the right way.
Lord Kingsland: I have not heard the Minister make a speech today where charm and content were more sharply contrasted. The Opposition are extremely unhappy with what the Minister has said and will return to the matter on Report.
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