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My Lords, I declare an interest as a former member of the Court of the Bank of England. I support the amendment proposed by the Minister and I do not support the amendment to it proposed by the noble Lord, Lord Eatwell, largely for the reasons identified by my noble friend Lord Turnbull.
The functionality of the court has improved markedly since I was a member—no doubt the two are directly related. There was a dominance of the court by the executive, and the non-executives were, quite frankly, confused about their role. They did not manage to organise themselves in a manner that effectively challenged the Chancellor. I and one or two members of the court became so concerned that we felt the need to report that the court was not working effectively—but we then struggled to find out to whom we should report it. I remember going to see the Permanent Secretary to the Treasury and then the Chancellor of the Exchequer and saying, “The Bank of England is not working well because it is too detached from the real world of what is happening in banking, and it acts as the sole voice of one person—namely, the governor”. I believe that it is now a far more democratic institution.
However, I struggle to understand why this power requires to be reflected in law. I would have thought that the effective functioning of a board of directors, on which we have based the court, would allow the court to establish a sub-committee to do anything that it chose to do and that it did not need specific authorisation in law to do so. If the Government’s view is that that power does not exist for the court, we need to be very clear that the Government are telling us that the court should in no circumstances be considered to be on a par with the board of directors of a company in terms of holding the executives to account.