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Lord Williams of Mostyn: I believe that Amendment No. 103 was grouped with Amendment No. 99. The latter has, fortunately, come and gone but it is only sensible for me to deal with both amendments for the convenience of the Committee. Amendment No. 101 would not cause a great change to the Bill; it would simply replace "his" with "Her Majesty's Government". However, we believe that it is an important matter and one which is entirely consonant with what my noble and learned friend the Lord Chancellor said about the importance that we attach to Clause 19.

Our scheme plainly puts responsibility upon the individual Minister who has charge of the Bill in either relevant place. He is given the particular responsibility of enuring that the policy accords with convention rights. His is the duty and his is the responsibility to answer to this Chamber or the other place. We believe that to be the correct focus and that is where it presently stands. Of course, the Minister would be answering on behalf of Her Majesty's Government as, by convention, Ministers answer Questions not on behalf of their own

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departments but on behalf of the Government generally. We believe that the responsibility is so particular that it ought to be left as it is.

Amendment No. 103 would require a Minister to repeat a written statement that he had made about compatibility by way of a statement to the Chamber of which he is a Member, either before or during the Second Reading of a Bill. The answer is quite plain. Acts of Parliament do not usually--indeed, not at all--regulate what a Minister will or will not say to Parliament. What one needs here is, first, responsibility attached to the sponsoring Minister; and, secondly, the opportunity for questions.

The former Lord Advocate, the noble and learned Lord, Lord Mackay of Drumadoon, said that Ministers would not be able to deal with the noble Lord, Lord Lester. Of course, I have summarised what he said, but I do not accept that view for a moment. If a Minister is to be remunerated, at whatever modest level, he ought to know his brief before he comes to the Chamber.

Lord Mackay of Drumadoon: For the sake of the record, I should point out that I did not quite put it in the way outlined by the Minister; namely, that the Minister concerned would not be able to deal with the noble Lord, Lord Lester. However, having had to deal with the noble Lord on occasions, I am sympathetic to the view which has been expressed. I fully accept that the intention is to make the Minister concerned personally involved in the matter and, although I intend to withdraw the amendment, I hope the Government will reflect on the problem of a lay Minister having to defend a view of the law in the face of the difficulties to which I referred. I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

[Amendments Nos. 102 to 103 not moved.]

Clause 19 agreed to.

[Amendment No. 104 not moved.]

Clause 20 [Orders under this Act]:

Lord Williams of Mostyn moved Amendments Nos. 105 to 108:


Page 11, line 3, at end insert--
("(1A) The power to make rules (other than rules of court) under section 2(3) or 7(8) is exercisable by statutory instrument.").
Page 11, line 4, leave out ("such") and insert ("statutory").
Page 11, line 4, leave out (" 16") and insert (" 16(7)").
Page 11, line 8, leave out (" 18(5)") and insert (" 18(6), or to which subsection (1A) applies,").

The noble Lord said: I have already spoken to these Amendments. I beg to move Amendments Nos. 105 to 108 en bloc.

On Question, amendments agreed to.

Clause 20, as amended, agreed to.

Clause 21 [Interpretation, etc. ]:

[Amendment No. 109 not moved.]

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Lord Williams of Mostyn moved Amendment No. 110:


Page 12, line 25, leave out ("section 21(1) of").

The noble Lord said: This is another tidying up amendment, if I can describe it in that way. This amendment widens the amendment to the Northern Ireland Constitution Act 1973 made by Clause 21(5). This is needed because there are provisions of the Bill other than the definition of subordinate legislation in Clause 21(1)(to which Clause 21(5) currently refers), for example Clause 3, which a Northern Ireland court might regard as affecting the status of Acts of the Northern Ireland Assembly. I beg to move.

On Question, amendment agreed to.

Clause 21, as amended, agreed to.

Clause 22 [Short title, commencement, application and extent]:

Lord Monson moved Amendment No. 111:


Page 12, line 26, after ("the") insert ("Additional").

The noble Lord said: I have drawn the short straw in that I have to move this important amendment at the end of a long day when the Committee is understandably hungry and possibly wants to go home too. I shall try to be brief. The Short Title of the Bill at the moment is the Human Rights Bill. Whether by accident or by design--I am sure it is the former--this is a propagandistic title. Faced with this title, the sort of voter who reads only the tabloids and watches only commercial television could be forgiven for being persuaded that prior to 1st May 1997 the United Kingdom was in a state of semi-tyranny compared with the liberal paradise to be found on the Continent of Europe.

The Members of this Chamber, Members of another place, those who have a university education and broadsheet readers in general are well aware that this is the reverse of the truth and that Britain, with its Magna Carta, jury system, equality before the law, its House of Commons with power to refuse to vote funds to the Monarch, the Glorious Revolution and so on, has always been--despite many imperfections--far freer than almost any continental nation. Most of those people know that the Soviet Union had rights written in black and white into its constitution right through the Lenin terror, the Stalin terror and the enduring Gulags and that it is the underlying attitudes and instincts of a nation's people that count just as much as what is written on paper. They know too that most people from third countries would far rather find themselves in the hands of the British police than the French police, whatever the theoretical safeguards in France.

Moreover, the title as it stands may give the public the impression that the rights conferred by this Bill are so comprehensive that nothing more needs to be done, ever. Of course we know better. For example, the European Convention on Human Rights is weak on property rights, as the European Court's judgments on the confiscatory aspects of the 1977 Aircraft and Shipbuilding Industries Act demonstrate. This is not

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surprising as the convention was formulated in the late 1940s when western Europe was going through a decidedly socialist phase.

I contend that we need a more honest and accurate title. I suggest prefacing the word "human" by the word "additional" for two reasons. First of all the Bill introduces a few totally new rights, but secondly, and perhaps more importantly, rights that cannot be enforced or which could be enforced only with great difficulty are only theoretical rather than actual rights. Theoretical rights that become actual ones as a result of the provisions of this Bill are effectively therefore additional rights. However, I am not wedded to the word "additional". Some Members of the Committee might prefer the word "enhanced" or something else altogether. I await with interest the comments of the Committee. I beg to move.

Earl Russell: I assure the noble Lord, Lord Monson, that it will be a little while before this country is a liberal paradise, but we are working on it. I understand the point that he makes but unfortunately parliamentary precedent is against him. Since I have been in this Chamber we have had more education Bills and more local government Bills than I can count, but none of them has ever been described as the additional education Bill or the additional local government Bill. I think there is a good case for following normal parliamentary practice.

Viscount Colville of Culross: If it is going to be anything it ought to be the some additional human rights Bill because one of the things it does not do is to incorporate the provisions of the international covenant in its entirety. Although this country has ratified it, we have not adopted the first optional protocol and therefore the rights of the citizens are confined to those matters that are in the European as opposed to the international convention. There are some important matters in the international convention which are not reflected in the European one.

Lord Williams of Mostyn: What the Bill is actually doing, surprisingly, is to be found, amazingly, in the Long Title which is to give,


    "further effect in domestic law to rights and freedoms",

which the United Kingdom is already obliged to secure to people in its jurisdiction by dint of its ratification of the convention. The noble Lord, Lord Monson, said that if we call it a Human Rights Bill that is propagandist. May I suggest that if it is an additional human rights Bill, that would be additionally propagandist?

Lord Monson: I thought there might be some comments from the Conservative Benches but they have decided to opt out, as so often happens these days. The noble Earl, Lord Russell, was absolutely right: parliamentary precedent dictates excessively short titles and therefore very often excessively confusing titles. It is a pity that we cannot break the precedent for once. Perhaps we could start a new trend to have titles which are more explanatory of the

27 Nov 1997 : Column 1169

legislation which they embrace. However, realistically, this is probably not the moment to do this. I also take the point made by the noble Viscount, Lord Colville, which I think is a perfectly valid one.

I, of course, have no intention whatsoever of trying to press this amendment at this time of night. Nevertheless I invite the Committee to ponder the possibility of altering the title. I shall not proceed on my own but if anyone else cares to join me at the next stage I shall be delighted to have their support. In the meantime, I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Clause 22 agreed to.

Schedule 1 [The Articles]:

[Amendments Nos. 112 to 114 not moved.]

Schedule 1 agreed to.

[Amendment No. 115 not moved.]

In the Title:

[Amendment No. 116 not moved.]

Remaining schedule agreed to.

27 Nov 1997 : Column 1170

House resumed: Bill reported with amendments.

Lloyds TSB Bill [H.L.]

Reported from the Unopposed Bill Committee with amendments.

Plant Varieties Bill

Returned from the Commons with the amendments agreed to.

Special Immigration Appeals Commission Bill [H.L.]

Returned from the Commons with the amendments agreed to with amendments and with a privilege amendment; the amendments ordered to be printed.

        House adjourned at eleven minutes before nine o'clock.


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