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Clause 1 - Deputy Governors

Part of Financial Services Bill – in a Public Bill Committee at 11:45 am on 21st February 2012.

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Photo of Chris Leslie Chris Leslie Shadow Minister (Treasury) 11:45 am, 21st February 2012

This has been a useful debate. The intervention from the hon. Member for Solihull as well as the interventions from other hon. Members eventually pressed the Minister into expressing some hope or desire that more consideration could be given to the diversity of the court, although he is getting very good at swerving to avoid particular questions that I think are fairly straightforward. I asked him whether he was satisfied with the current composition of the court in terms of its diversity, and he went off on a tangent. On this occasion, I will forgive him for doing so, but we must reach a position where he can answer a question in a straightforward way. He made some important concessions, but they are of course informal concessions. This Minister is here today, but he may be gone tomorrow. We do not know what his duration of office will be. Perhaps he will be here for a very long time. Who knows where the hon. Member for West Suffolk is at the moment? Perhaps he is with the Prime Minister, discussing his career prospects. Undoubtedly that is something that he does frequently. I just hope that the Minister can hang on for the duration of the Committee at least, because it would be cruel and unusual punishment to give the hon. Member for West Suffolk this portfolio midway through Committee.

My point is simply this: informal concessions from particular Ministers at a particular time are not sufficient. The OCPA code, from which the Minister quoted, is an important one and is correct. As my hon. Friend the Member for Foyle said, diversity should not be the overriding issue. Merit must be the driving force in the appointments process. However, the amendment is drafted in such a way as to deliver that. It is a fairly balanced and reasonable approach that I would have thought was fairly unobjectionable. We need to ensure that there is stronger sectoral insight—the phrase used by my hon. Friend—but we also want to ensure that we have a court that is fit for purpose. Yes, the members must have the skills and breadth of experience necessary, but to a certain degree they should reflect more effectively the composition of society and the economy and those industries working within it.

The Committee will know that this issue comes up in relation to other sub-committees of the Bank later, particularly with reference to the FPC, but given the importance of the question that my hon. Friends have raised about Scotland, Wales, Northern Ireland and the important voice that they need to have  in these institutions, it is important to press the amendment to a vote to test the Committee’s view on the issue.