Report (1st Day)
Lord Davies of Oldham (Deputy Chief Whip (House of Lords), HM Household; Labour)
My Lords, as the noble Baroness said, we debated the issue of the independence of the valuer in Committee and that debate encouraged us to bring forward government amendments to the code of practice to signal that the code can include information on certain compensation matters. This amendment states that the person appointing the independent valuer should be independent. I agree that the appointing person should act independently in his function. Therefore, the debate is about whether that needs to be achieved by requiring that the appointed person or panel be independent.
The starting point is that Article 6 of the European Convention on Human Rights requires a person who determines compensation to be independent and impartial. A person is not precluded from being independent and impartial because the Government appoint him. However, this is an area where we thought it desirable to signal that the independent valuer would not simply be appointed directly by the Government without external participation in the process. The Government believed that including provision for an appointing person had two main benefits: first, that a person with sufficient expertise, or indeed a panel of experts, could be used to select an independent valuer, which seemed more helpful to the process than a direct appointment by civil servants; and, secondly, that showing that the Treasury is not directly involved in the process would help to put the independence of the valuer on the strongest footing.
To be clear, we do not believe that this provision is required on fairness grounds under the European Convention on Human Rights, but we believe it is a helpful signal on this matter that the Treasury would not have a direct role in appointing the independent valuer. Even without requiring the appointing person to be independent themselves, I believe that the fact that they have a purpose and role distinct from the roles of the interested parties ensures that they can act with independence.
In short, we have taken the belt of an independent valuer, which is mandatory under the European convention, and added to it the braces of an appointing person or panel. I do not believe we need the additional security provided by any further contraptions for keeping our metaphorical trousers in place. For this reason and speaking with some authority, I do not believe the noble Baroness's amendment is necessary and I urge her to withdraw it.