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5 Nov 2002 : Column 228—continued

After clause 13

Lords amendment: No. 16, insert the following new Clause–-

Beverley Hughes: I beg to move, That this House disagrees with the Lords in the said amendment.

Madam Deputy Speaker: With this we will take Lords amendment No. 45 and Government motion to disagree thereto, Lords amendments Nos. 46 to 83, Lords amendments Nos. 85 and 87, Lords amendment No. 88 and Government motion to disagree thereto, Lords amendments Nos. 89 to 97, Lords amendment 98 and amendments (a) and (b) thereto, Lords amendments Nos. 100 to 103 and 110 to 125, Lords amendment No. 126 and Government motion to disagree thereto, Lords amendment No. 192 and Government motion to disagree thereto, Lords amendments Nos. 193 to 213, Lords amendment No. 214 and amendment (a) thereto, Lords amendment No. 216 and Government motion to disagree thereto, Lords amendments Nos. 217 to 223, Lords amendment No. 224 and Government motion to disagree thereto, Lords amendment No. 225 and Government amendment (a) thereto, and Lords amendments Nos. 226 to 236 and 238 to 311.

Beverley Hughes: These amendments refer primarily to the order-making power in Lords amendment No. 225. Most of what has been said about that amendment so far, both in the other place and outside, has been wrong, and much of it has been extremely misleading. We can only conjecture whether that was deliberate or not, but to put the matter beyond doubt we have altered the wording of the amendment. That may have been unnecessary, but the revision was not difficult.

Three issues were raised in the other place in relation to Lords amendment No. 225: timing, scope and what was described as menace. On timing, there is little more I can say other than that we are where we are. As I think we all know, the Bill has necessarily evolved,

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particularly in recent months as we have reached agreement with France during changes in the asylum system. We have had to develop policy and reflect that in the Bill. It is important that, notwithstanding extra strains imposed on Members, we have managed to produce good legislation in which we respond to reality, albeit a changing reality.

The greatest misunderstanding has perhaps been on the scope of the Lords amendment. I ask the House to agree an amendment to clarify the scope of the power. I make it clear that it was always our view, based on parliamentary counsel's advice, that the power was narrow and limited.

The right hon. Member for West Dorset (Mr. Letwin) has a formidable skill—I am not sure how long it will last or how soon he will be found out. He can talk utter rubbish and be totally wrong but because he has a soft seductive voice and seems like a nice person, he is believed, even by rather lazy journalists who do not do their research to find out the truth of the matter.

The right hon. Gentleman made two contentions on the XToday" programme about the Lords amendment—that the power would allow for changes to the Bill in future without recourse to a parliamentary debate, and that the power would enable the Home Secretary to change any previous laws. Both those contentions are completely and utterly incorrect. There would have to be a parliamentary debate and approval through an affirmative order if previous primary legislation were being changed, as is made clear in the Government's amendment. The right hon. Gentleman is being deliberately misleading or he has his facts wrong. He is such an assiduous person about detail that I cannot believe it is the latter.

The power would allow changes only to previous immigration laws that are consequential to this Bill to ensure coherence and consistency. That is good common sense and good drafting.

Mr. Douglas Hogg (Sleaford and North Hykeham): The hon. Lady said that the amendment would allow changes only to previous immigration legislation, but if she is good enough to look at subsection (2) of Lords amendment No. 225, she will see the words

That is any enactment. It is not confined to an immigration enactment. Indeed it goes on to say that the order may

That clearly extends to statutory instruments made under any enactment. To say that the provision is confined to immigration legislation is not borne out in the statute.

Beverley Hughes: If the right hon. and learned Gentleman reads the first part of the Lords amendment, he will see that it says that

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Therefore, the enactment that can be amended or modified has to be consequential or incidental to the provisions of this particular legislation.

Mr. Hogg indicated dissent.

Beverley Hughes: The right hon. and learned Gentleman will have to put forward the advice that he has been given but that is the view of the parliamentary counsel who are assisting us.

Mr. Robert Marshall-Andrews (Medway): I am sorry to say this, but that is simply wrong. It is not a question of statutory interpretation. The provision enables an amendment to an enactment—any enactment. Is my hon. Friend prepared to say that it is inconceivable that it would lead, for example, to an amendment to a criminal justice Act, an education Act or anything else that is in any way incidental to these proceedings?

9.30 pm

Beverley Hughes: My hon. and learned Friend, despite his experience in this field, is simply incorrect. In order to be amended or modified, another enactment would, by definition, have to relate to the provisions in this Bill—in other words, to immigration—for it to be consequential or incidental. Those are the terms of the amendment.

The order-making power would not therefore allow the Government to make provision that was not purely consequential on, or incidental to, something already in the Bill. [Interruption.] To do so—as I suspect those hon. Members who keep jumping up and down know—would be ultra vires and unlawful.

Simon Hughes: Why was this provision introduced at the very last minute in the Lords? As the Minister knows, such provisions are always controversial and always looked at carefully. In keeping with the argument advanced by the right hon. and learned Member for Sleaford and North Hykeham (Mr. Hogg), the hon. and learned Member for Medway (Mr. Marshall-Andrews), myself and others, why does the word Xconsequential" not have its normal meaning—something that happens after the Bill and which is related to it? The definition is very wide, and could include almost anything in the Bill, such as accommodation centres and appeal processes.

Beverley Hughes: I agree with the hon. Gentleman in that, had the position been different in terms of the Bill's development, I would have preferred to table the amendment earlier. However, there is a point about which we and parliamentary counsel cannot be clear. Although we think that all necessary cross-references with other legislation have been made—I shall deal with that point later in relation to a question that the right hon. Member for West Dorset asked me privately—we cannot be sure that all the other tidying-up work has been done to ensure that the Bill relates to previous legislation as written, without the need for amendment to make such cross-referencing absolutely clear and appropriate. As with much legislation, once the Bill has been enacted, there will be a need for a power that parliamentary counsel can bring forward, in the ways outlined in the amendment—and, so far as amendments

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to previous enactments are concerned, through the affirmative resolution procedure—to ensure that different Acts of Parliament are not in conflict with each other.

Mr. Mark Fisher (Stoke-on-Trent, Central): Can my hon. Friend help us some more on the meaning of the word Xconsequential"? If, as a consequence of the operation of this legislation, a weakness was revealed and a future Government wanted to introduce new elements of immigration or asylum law to cover it—such a situation would be the consequence of our failings in passing this legislation—would they be able to do so? In other words, through the amendment, could they pass what in effect would be new primary initiatives?

Beverley Hughes: I direct my hon. Friend to the wording of the amendment. He is perfectly capable of knowing what Xconsequential" means in these circumstances.

Mr. Fisher: I am asking my hon. Friend.

Beverley Hughes: Well, my hon. Friend knows what it means. It is a term that has been used in many clauses and much legislation, and I would have expected him to be familiar with it by now.

Mr. Fisher: Name one.

Beverley Hughes: I shall certainly name one. I want to get—

Mr. Fisher: Will my hon. Friend give way?

Beverley Hughes: No, I want to make some progress.

Mr. Fisher: Will my hon. Friend give way on that point?

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