Lord LexdenMain Page: Lord Lexden (Conservative - Life peer)
Department Debates - View all Lord Lexden's debates with the Leader of the House
Amendment 4 withdrawn.
Amendments 5 and 6 not moved.
The Government are confident that the GAR provides the safeguards needed to ensure financial stability and that our consumers will be protected by the high standards that they expect, but in a way that respects Gibraltar’s independence. I therefore ask that the right reverend Prelate should withdraw his amendment.
I thank all the contributors to this debate, which has been very informative and helpful. Given that roughly 25% of UK motor insurance is written from Gibraltar, it is clear that large amounts of profit made in the UK are being booked in Gibraltar and that the public purse here is being deprived of large amounts of tax revenue.
Of course, we might take the view that Gibraltar has been hit hard by Brexit and therefore deserves some support, but, as I pointed out, the beneficiaries of those profits are not necessarily people in Gibraltar but are actually corporations using Gibraltar to extract revenue from the UK. The ultimate destination of those profits is not really known because there is no transparency at all. Whether somebody is engaging in tax evasion or tax avoidance, the effect on the UK public purse is the same: the loss of revenue.
We still need greater transparency but at the moment, we do not have it. I hope that, when we have a public form of country-by-country reporting, perhaps that will provide some form of transparency, but at the moment the Government are not committed to that.
Nevertheless, I thank everybody for their contributions to the debate, and with the permission of the House and on behalf of the right reverend Prelate the Bishop of St Albans, I beg leave to withdraw this amendment.
Amendment 7 withdrawn.
My Lords, I will speak also to the other amendments in this group. The Sewel convention states that normally, the UK Parliament will legislate in areas that are devolved only with the permission of the relevant legislature, obtained through the legislative consent Motion process.
In recent weeks, despite the best efforts of Ministers and officials from HM Treasury and the Northern Ireland Executive, it has become clear that the legislative consent Motions for relevant parts of the Bill would not be completed before Report in this House. It is therefore necessary to ensure that certain elements of the Bill do not apply in Northern Ireland, in line with the Sewel convention.
I assure the House that the great majority of the Bill will have effect in Northern Ireland, as financial services is a reserved matter. However, it is necessary for Northern Ireland to be removed from the relevant parts of the Statutory Debt Repayment Plan and account freezing and forfeiture measures in Clause 34 and Schedule 12, with connected changes to Clause 44 on extent and Clause 45 on commencement in addition.
These are technical amendments which the Government have tabled to avoid legislating without consent. Our understanding is that the absence of a consent Motion is due to current timing constraints rather than any concern about the substance of the measures. Legislative consent was not denied—the process was simply not completed.
Amendments 50 and 51 will amend Schedule 12 so that certain provisions in that schedule will have different effects in Northern Ireland from those in England and Wales and Scotland. Amendments 38, 40, 41 and 42 amend Clauses 44 and 45 to help give effect to the changes to Schedule 12. The amendments retain the status quo in Northern Ireland regarding the Proceeds of Crime Act 2002, and the changes which Schedule 12 makes to that Act will have effect only in England, Wales and Scotland. It is important to be clear that these amendments will not affect Schedule 12 as it relates to the Anti-terrorism, Crime and Security Act 2001. Anti-terrorism is an excepted matter and the changes which Schedule 12 makes to that Act will have effect across the UK.
Amendments 8, 9, 10, 13 and 39 prevent most of the changes made in Clause 34 extending to Northern Ireland. These are the provisions relating to the Statutory Debt Repayment Plan measure.
Clause 34(4), which provides an express power to bind the Crown, will continue to apply to Northern Ireland. This is done so as not to disturb the position on Crown application that the Government consider originally applied in the Financial Guidance and Claims Act 2018 in relation to Northern Ireland.
I would like to reassure noble Lords that Northern Ireland will still be able to make its own legislation providing for a debt respite scheme of its own design, including similar provisions to those in Clause 34, if these are desired. UK Government officials will of course continue to work closely with and support their opposite numbers on the design and implementation of a debt respite scheme for Northern Ireland if this is pursued.
I urge the House to accept these amendments, which are necessary to avoid legislating for Northern Ireland without the appropriate consent. I beg to move.
I am grateful to the House for allowing me to speak at this point. I put in a request, but it got omitted. The Deputy Speaker has expressed the situation well.
The substance of the issues raised by the noble Earl in his introduction are incontestable. We respect the devolution settlement and we need to make sure that everything we do is in accordance with that. He slightly misspoke in the sense that the Sewel convention now has statutory force, rather than being just a convention. Indeed, it is often now called the Sewel principle. When we were dealing with matters arising from the internal market Bill, which came to your Lordships’ House about six months ago, that was certainly the way in which we addressed this issue.
I understand the logic behind the Government’s current position and their concern that they should not take steps which would in any sense mitigate the Sewel principle, as discussed. However, I was left a little confused by the noble Earl’s remarks, despite the usual clarity with which he expressed himself.
As I understood it, the debt respite scheme was being progressed under regulations made under the Financial Guidance and Claims Act 2018, to which he referred. It therefore seems a little odd that we are still concerned that that might not go ahead or that, if it did, it would do so under regulations made in Northern Ireland rather than those which will apply in England and Wales. From memory, this will be in place from May 2021, which is not very far away. I would be grateful if the noble Earl could be a little clearer about that when he comes to respond, or perhaps he could write to me and we could discuss this. The issue is where that authority will vest going forward. Will it relate to the UK financial guidance Act or to local legislation put through by the Northern Ireland Assembly? Matters may arise regarding how that is decided, but I would like to know the answer.
The other question is how we make progress in relation to the statutory debt repayment plans. The issue here is again whether the necessary legislative consent order would have come through, when it has not, in relation to that. If that is the case, perhaps the Minister will confirm whether that is happening. If it is not happening, is not the situation a little different this time? Because, as we are going to discuss in the next group, we are now being told that the timeframe for the delivery of the SDRP is going to be the end of 2024, which is, after all, three and a bit years away. It seems unlikely that there will still be a problem if we are waiting for the Northern Ireland Assembly to consider that: we should be able to get through that in three and a half years’ time.
I would be grateful if the Minister would let us know a bit more about the Government’s plans and again, it that is not in his notes, he can write to me and we can discuss it offline.
Amendments 9 and 10 agreed.