Banking Bill — Committee (4th Day)

Part of the debate – in the House of Lords at 6:15 pm on 20th January 2009.

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Photo of Lord Forsyth of Drumlean Lord Forsyth of Drumlean Conservative 6:15 pm, 20th January 2009

My noble and learned friend has put far more eloquently and with far more knowledge of the law the points that I wanted to put to the Minister on my reading of the clause. I am trying to think of circumstances that might pertain to it. These are the powers of a medieval monarch; this is Alice in Wonderland stuff, where the law is what I say it is if I am the Executive and, if Parliament subsequently disagrees with me, that is tough. That is how it was. If the Minister is not able to give us an example, the clause seems disproportionate; it seems a very big sledgehammer indeed and creates a horrendous precedent. I wonder whether the Minister might not go back to his officials, who are obviously enthusiastic about ensuring that they cover all the bases, and consider whether it might be possible to achieve the objectives without going quite so far in what is nothing more than a grand by-pass of Parliament clause with considerable consequences.

On my reading of this, it is possible to keep running the order over a recess, as my noble friend said from the Front Bench. If there is some dire emergency—some dire national crisis—that requires immediate action, it is possible to recall Parliament. If the order provides for 28 days, I do not see why it is necessary to have this renewal of the period, which effectively means that Ministers can govern by fiat, secure in the knowledge that there is no accountability whatever. Not only is there no certainty, but there is no accountability. This is the most extraordinary clause. I can only think that it was written by officials who had perhaps not given sufficient concern to the role of Parliament and, as my noble and learned friend said, to the importance of maintaining the rule of law, which is fundamental to our whole way of life.