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Mr. Mike O'Brien: The three amendments relate to statements of compatibility, or incompatibility, made under clause 19. The clause is a demonstration of the Government's commitment to human rights. It is one which we need not have included in the Bill, but we have chosen to include it because of the importance we attach to these rights. The added responsibilities placed on a Minister are justified on that basis.

By requiring a Minister in charge of a Bill to give a statement on its compatibility, we are underlining our commitment to pre-legislative scrutiny of all new policy measures. Also, where the Minister states that he is unable to make a positive statement about the Bill's compatibility, that will be an early signal to Parliament that the possible human rights implications of the Bill will need to be given careful consideration by the House--especially, no doubt, in Committee.

The amendments add to the requirements placed on Ministers by clause 19. Amendments Nos. 1 and 2 would require a statement on the compatibility or otherwise of a Bill to be accompanied by a report setting out issues relevant to the Bill's compatibility with the convention rights and, where the Government wanted Parliament to proceed with a Bill for which a Minister could not make a statement of compatibility, reasons why they nevertheless wished the House to consider it.

Amendment No. 3 would provide that an oral rather than a written statement, as the Bill currently provides for, be made in respect of a Bill for which a statement of compatibility could not be given.

I can understand why the amendments have been tabled, but in many ways it is a matter of judgment as to how the House will proceed. Our view is that the amendments are unnecessary, because the House provides for the examination of such issues in its procedures in any event. The amendments would almost create an artificial mechanism to do what the House already does. A statement as provided for by the Bill as it stands will be sufficient to achieve the important aims that both we and, in many ways, Opposition Members want clause 19 to deliver. That would flag up the issue to the House, which

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in the normal course of events would be able to look into the reasoning behind the statement of compatibility. Inevitably, that will be an issue during the passage of a Bill.

A debate would provide the best forum in which the Government's thinking could be fully explained. I cannot imagine how the mere giving of such a statement could enhance the debate that would normally take place on Second Reading or in Committee, which would usually elicit the required answers.

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In such circumstances, a written report would not provide much added value. In some cases, a requirement to provide such a full report might also be odd--for example when the terms of a Bill meant that there was no connection with the convention and no convention rights were affected. Then it would merely be a pointless exercise.

Similarly, the requirement for a Minister to make an oral statement when he or she cannot make a statement of compatibility, as imposed by amendment No. 3, is not necessary or appropriate. Acts of Parliament do not usually regulate what a Minister will or will not say in the Chamber. A written statement would be readily available to whoever wanted to read it. As I said, anything in that statement and any other aspect of the human rights implications of a Bill could be debated under the normal proceedings of the House.

What might be of assistance would be any report made on the Bill, for example, by a human rights Committee of the House, if it decided to set one up. In due course, that might certainly be a way of informing the debate, whether in Committee or elsewhere, and looking into the detail of why such a statement was made by the Government. Obviously, such a Committee of the House could discuss the detail.

The hon. Member for Hertsmere (Mr. Clappison) has tabled the amendments for legitimate and proper reasons, in the sense that he wants to be sure that the House has the opportunity to discuss the issues fully, but his concerns are covered by the procedures of the House.

The hon. Gentleman asked for some examples of when the Government might want to proceed with a Bill that was not compatible with the convention. One example would be if we were legislating on the length of time for which the Secretary of State might authorise the detention of terrorist suspects under the Prevention of Terrorism (Temporary Provisions) Acts. The Strasbourg Court found our court in breach of article 5 of the convention some years ago, but we have maintained the arrangements because of the situation in Northern Ireland through a derogation as set out in schedule 3 of the Bill.

We already know that we may want to proceed with certain Bills even though there is some incompatibility. It is difficult to predict all the situations that might arise, as they are exceptional, like the example I gave.

The hon. Gentleman will realise, I think, that it is right that the Government should flag up an issue to the House, which can go into the detail and the reasoning behind the statement of incompatibility through its normal procedures. He will see from my example that we may properly want to proceed with a Bill that is incompatible

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with the convention, although that will be rare and exceptional. I hope that, in view of my comments, the Opposition will withdraw their amendment.

Mr. Clappison: Although I listened carefully to the Minister's arguments, I remain afraid that this will be little more than a rubber stamp and a presentational device. The hon. Gentleman and the Government would do well to be aware of the stream of legal and other academic opinion about the consequences for possible future legal action of some of the legislation that they have put before the House. The Opposition certainly do not want such a situation to arise, but we fear that it might.

I am not convinced by what the Minister has said. This is more a matter of presentation than of substance. However, in view of the lateness of the hour, I will not press the matter to a vote. I beg to ask leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Clause 20

Orders under this Act

Amendments made: No. 14, in page 11, line 40, after 'power' insert
'of a Minister of the Crown'.
No. 15, in page 11, line 42, after 'power' insert
'of the Lord Chancellor or the Secretary of State'.
No. 16, in page 12, line 1, after 'made' insert
'by the Lord Chancellor or the Secretary of State'.
No. 17, in page 12, line 5, at end insert--
'( ) The power of a Northern Ireland department to make--
(a) rules under section 2(3)(b) or 7(9)(b); or
(b) an order under section 7(11);
is exercisable by statutory rule for the purposes of the Statutory Rules (Northern Ireland) Order 1979.
( ) Any rules made under section 2(3)(b) or 7(9)(b) shall be subject to negative resolution; and section 41(6) of the Interpretation Act (Northern Ireland) 1954 (meaning of "subject to negative resolution") shall apply as if the power to make the rules were conferred by an Act of the Northern Ireland Assembly.
( ) No order may be made by a Northern Ireland department under section 7(11) unless a draft of the order has been laid before, and approved by, the Northern Ireland Assembly.'.--[Mr. Mike O'Brien.]

Clause 21

Interpretation, etc

Amendments made: No. 18, in page 12, line 6, at end insert--
' "amend" includes repeal and apply (with or without modifications);'.
No. 19, in page 12, line 17, at end insert--
' "Northern Ireland Minister" includes the First Minister and the deputy First Minister in Northern Ireland;'.
No. 20, in page 12, line 24, leave out lines 24 to 27 and insert--
'(f) Order in Council--
(i) made in exercise of Her Majesty's Royal Prerogative;

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(ii) made under section 38(1)(a) of the Northern Ireland Constitution Act 1973 or the corresponding provision of the Northern Ireland Act 1998; or
(iii) amending an Act of a kind mentioned in paragraph (a), (b) or (c);'.
No. 21, in page 12, line 28, leave out from 'made' to 'under' in line 30.
No. 22, in page 12, line 30, after 'legislation' insert
'(otherwise than by the National Assembly for Wales, a member of the Scottish Executive, a Northern Ireland Minister or a Northern Ireland department)'.--[Mr. Mike O'Brien.]

Mr. Mike O'Brien: I beg to move amendment No. 23, in page 12, line 34, at end insert--

' "the Sixth Protocol" means the Protocol to the Convention agreed at Strasbourg on 28th April 1983;'.

Mr. Deputy Speaker: With this, it will be convenient to discuss Government amendments Nos. 31, 32, 34 and 35.

Mr. O'Brien: The amendments all concern the death penalty and arise as a result of decisions in Committee and an announcement made earlier in the year. In Committee, amendments tabled by my hon. Friend the Member for Hull, North (Mr. McNamara) were accepted on a free vote. They inserted references to articles 1 and 2 of the sixth protocol into clause 1 of the Bill and inserted some of their text into schedule 1. The sixth protocol provides for the abolition of the death penalty.

However, my hon. Friend's amendments did not define the sixth protocol for the purposes of the Bill, and we are now doing so in amendment No. 23 to clause 21. My hon. Friend also left out a sentence from article 1 of the protocol--inadvertently, I am sure--which is inserted at the correct place in the sentence in schedule 1.

The other three amendments arise from a decision announced by the Minister for the Armed Forces in a statement to the House on 24 July, in columns 1372 to 1386 of Hansard. He announced that the Government intended to abolish the death penalty for military offences in all circumstances, whether in peace or wartime.

Accordingly, amendment No. 31 inserts a new subsection into clause 21, which provides that any liability to the death penalty under the Armed Forces Acts is to be treated as a liability to life imprisonment or some lesser penalty instead. That general statement will be supplemented by detailed amendments to the Armed Forces Acts when the next legislation to consolidate them is introduced. The services were fully involved in the review and consultation took place at all levels, up to and including the chiefs of staff, who believe that the time is right to abolish the death penalty.

Amendment No. 32 provides that the new subsection inserted by amendment No. 31 comes into force when the Bill receives Royal Assent. That is consistent with our intention to honour the decision of the House by proceeding without delay to sign and ratify the sixth protocol.

Amendment No. 34 provides that the new subsection inserted by amendment No. 31 has effect in any place in which the Armed Forces Acts have effect, which is necessary because, unlike the Human Rights Bill, those Acts are not limited in their territorial extent to the United Kingdom. That is consistent with our intention to extend

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the ratification of the sixth protocol to the Channel Islands and the Isle of Man, subject to their agreement. Jersey and the Isle of Man have already agreed and Guernsey will next week debate a recommendation from the Advisory and Finance Committee to do so.

The practical effects of the amendments are such that Parliament will not be able to reintroduce the death penalty, other than for acts committed in time of war or imminent threat of war, unless the United Kingdom denounces the European convention on human rights.

The inclusion of article 2 of the sixth protocol in the Bill shows that we recognise that, in ratifying the protocol, we must ratify the whole protocol rather than any part of it. Leaving article 2 in the Bill does not signify any intention to reintroduce the death penalty for acts in time of war. Parliament could do that whether or not article 2 were in the Bill, but that would be inconsistent with the Government's position as set out in the statement that my right hon. Friend the former Minister for the Armed Forces made in July. The amendments give effect to that new policy.

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