Moves to tighten regulation on financial markets held up by Irish row

Government business managers had hopes the legislation to tighten the regulation of Britain’s financial markets and bring them all under a single Financial Services Authority would clear the House of Commons this week.

But angry Tory and Ulster Union MPs took a debate on the Disqualifications Bill – which would allow members of the Irish Republic parliament to sit at Westminster – all the way through the night, the first such marathon sitting since 1988.

Because the government refused to collapse the business and give the opposition an extra day or two days’ debate before the scheduled start of today’s programme, it was lost .

This meant there was no prime minister’s question on Mr Blair’s one thousandth day in power and that the first of the two days’ debate on the remaining stages of the Financial Services and Markets Bill was lost.

It will have to be rescheduled in the next couple of weeks.

The Tories accused Mr Blair of allowing the debate to run on so he could avoid facing opposition leader William Hague after an embarrassing string of disasters.

This was strongly denied by Government sources who claimed the Tories were ‘playing political football’ with a key part of the Irish peace process.

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