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Clause 1 - Deputy Governors

Part of Financial Services Bill – in a Public Bill Committee at 11:15 am on 21st February 2012.

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Photo of Chris Leslie Chris Leslie Shadow Minister (Treasury) 11:15 am, 21st February 2012

I beg to move amendment 3, in clause 1, page 1, line 12, at end insert—

‘(2A) The Chancellor of the Exchequer shall only appoint a person under subsection (2)(e) if he is satisfied that the person has knowledge or experience which is likely to be relevant to the Court’s functions and would enhance the diversity of the composition of the Court.’.

Proposed new subsection (2)(e) covers those nine directors who are not a governor or a deputy governor. Under the amendment, we seek to enhance the diversity of the composition of the court, to get a sense from the Minister about whether the court’s current composition is likely to change or evolve over time and to find out what he seeks to do in the exercise of his powers in  making those appointments to the court. What sorts of experience and knowledge does he think should be available for the Bank on the court and what is the Government’s attitude to improving the breadth of the composition so that it reflects those parts of the economy—industry or the financial services sector itself—so that they can at least have a shot at being able to be represented on that court. Clearly, the composition of the court is not a mandated set of representatives who strictly come from one particular quadrant of the financial services sector, whether it is insurance or professional services. None the less, we feel that there is an important point to raise about the current composition of the court. Some eminent and skilled people sit on the court of the Bank of England, and I have no qualms with any of them on an individual basis. However, only one woman sits on the court in its current composition, together with a serious number of Bank officials and appointees. There are no representatives from consumer organisations, although some members come from the insurance sectors, and it is important to consider whether the diversity of the court can be improved. I have used the term diversity deliberately in this amendment, although not elsewhere in the Bill, because I want to get a sense of the attitude held by Ministers towards the diversity of public appointments in this instance.

Diversity has different meanings for different people. In this context, however, we want the term to be considered in as open and unconstrained way as possible. It does not simply concern the physical or personal characteristics that we know about, such as gender, ethnicity, sexual orientation, age or disability, but also diversity of skill, experience and background, which is particularly important to the composition of the court. The industrial and economic sectors of the economy are important, as are the regions and nations within the United Kingdom as they are represented. That issue will become increasingly important should developments of a constitutional nature that are currently in the air take their course, or head in the wrong direction, in the future.