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Lord Renton: My Lords, the noble Lord, Lord Lester of Herne Hill, has raised a delicate and uncertain constitutional point. I speak as one who, like other Members of your Lordships' House--in particular in recent times my noble friends Lady Blatch and Lord Elton--has had responsibility for watching the interests of the Channel Islands and the Isle of Man while serving in the Home Office.
I must say that we must be very careful because, although from time to time the United Kingdom Parliament legislates on those independent territories under the Crown, they do so only when they have the agreements of the parliaments of those territories. Of course, Her Majesty has a direct responsibility for them but, by tradition, her Prime Minister and other Members of her government have been very careful not to impose obligations upon them.
I should be grateful if, in answering these amendments--and I believe it is to be the noble Lord, Lord Williams of Mostyn, which gives one great pleasure--the Minister will tell the House what consultation there has been with the Tynwald and the parliaments of Guernsey and Jersey. If they want to be aligned with the United Kingdom, of which they are not part, on these matters, so be it. But we must be very careful about it.
Lord Monson: My Lords, as a layman and someone who has never been remotely anywhere near government, I am most hesitant to intervene. But it seems to me that it would take us down a very slippery slope if this quartet of amendments--in particular Amendment No. 69 which is the substantive amendment--were accepted.
The Channel Islands and the Isle of Man are extremely ancient jurisdictions. They are not and never have been part of the United Kingdom and they have no representation whatever at Westminster. Therefore, whatever the Royal Commission may have declared in 1973, it is surely quite wrong to interfere in their internal affairs unless there is some gross injustice crying out to be remedied, which is certainly not the case here.
Many years ago, those territories agreed of their own free will--and that is the important point--to be bound by the provisions of the European Convention on Human Rights. That surely should be enough to satisfy any reasonable person.
Lord Henley: My Lords, like my noble friend Lord Renton and the noble Lord, Lord Monson, I should like to ask not only the Government but also the noble Lord, Lord Lester, when he comes to respond, what consultations have taken place with the various island governments responsible in this regard.
The noble Lord argued that the consent of the islands is not necessary. I believe that the noble Lord, Lord Monson, expressed the matter much more effectively when he said that even if, in strict law, their consent was not necessary, in all humanity they should be consulted and their consent should be obtained.
I have one further question for the noble Lord which relates to the first amendment in this group; namely, Amendment No. 18. As I understand it, that relates to the various courts of appeal in the three territories mentioned. Am I right to understand that it would allow, for example, the court of appeal in Guernsey to make a declaration of incompatibility in relation to legislation coming from this Parliament? Would it be possible for
I am most grateful to the noble Lord, Lord Lester of Herne Hill, for the way in which he has moved the amendment. He has correctly identified, as have other noble Lords, the constitutional position of the Channel Islands and the Isle of Man. It is a fact that there is a great reservoir of ignorance about the true constitutional arrangements between the Channel Islands, the Isle of Man and the United Kingdom. The noble Lord, Lord Renton, and latterly the noble Earl, Lord Ferrers, the noble Baroness, Lady Blatch, and now I--I am sorry, my amnesia was unintended but I forgot the noble Lord, Lord Elton--have all had responsibility for dealing with the Channel Islands. The fact is that they are independent jurisdictions and are extremely and understandably astute that their interests be properly considered; that they be properly consulted; and that every due regard be given to their views. Dare I say, in this evening's context, that that is one of their human rights?
Generally speaking, I do not disagree with the constitutional analysis put forward by the noble Lord, Lord Lester of Herne Hill. The Crown is ultimately--and I stress the word ultimately--responsible for the good government of the islands. We have full power in principle to legislate for the islands, but it is a fact that it would be contrary to constitutional conventions to which all governments of whatever political complexion have adhered for the power to be used in the ordinary course of events without the agreement of the island governments. I respectfully take the points made by the noble Lord, Lord Monson, but they have their own systems of government and are not represented at Westminster in matters which are entirely domestic to the islands. In extremis, we could take that power but we do not regard these circumstances as appropriate for the power to be taken. We prefer to work by co-operation, as did previous governments.
Enabling provisions are included in published Bills only after full consultation with the island governments. Similarly, any orders that the islands subsequently agree should be made are drafted in consultation with the island authorities. Many noble Lords asked, perfectly properly, whether Her Majesty's Government had consulted with the appropriate island governments. The answer is an unambiguous yes. All three stated categorically that they did not wish the Human Rights Bill to be extended to them in the way proposed by the noble Lord, Lord Lester of Herne Hill. All of them said no, and they were quite categoric in that respect.
However, it is right that the Isle of Man authorities have announced their intention to introduce insular legislation. I say that knowing that I might be derided but I believe it to be the correct adjective. That insular legislation--it being an island, after all--would give effect to the convention on the islands. They have taken that view. The authorities in the Channel Islands do not intend to take that step for the present, but it is not ruled out for the future.
The Government's position is quite plain. We have our obligations. We have our obligations under the convention. We have consulted the islands fully and have our obligations to consider their views. We have done so, and have come to the conclusion that we ought not to accede to the proposals made by the noble Lord, Lord Lester of Herne Hill.
I am most grateful for the support expressed from various quarters of your Lordships' House. We are dealing with delicate matters and there are sensibilities involved which must properly be attended to and taken into consideration. We believe that the stance we have adopted is the correct one, bearing in mind the conventional history of the relationships between the United Kingdom and three islands which have their own distinct traditions, their own separate views and their own discrete legislatures.
Lord Lester of Herne Hill: My Lords, perhaps the Minister could deal with one matter that I raised. I refer to the problem that if we give remedies to British citizens in the UK but do not give the same remedies to British citizens living in the Isle of Man or in the Channel Islands on the basis of the courts' case law, which I quoted all too extensively, we will be in breach of Article 14 of the convention, read with Article 6, for discriminating in the provision of remedies in the determination of convention rights. The course that I take will depend very much on the answer that I receive to that question.
Lord Williams of Mostyn: No, my Lords, with the greatest of respect we do not accept that argument because there is no discrimination: the jurisdictions are different. Therefore, one is not comparing like with like. We do not believe that we would be in default of our Article 14 obligations. I fully recognise the noble Lord's interest in these different jurisdictions, especially recently in the Isle of Man. Therefore, I dare say it is a kind of gratification to him to know that the Isle of Man has decided to legislate internally on the lines that I suggested.
Baroness Blatch: My Lords, before the Minister sits down, perhaps he will answer one further question. Does he agree that the arguments that have been deployed in response to the amendments--all of which I agree with wholeheartedly--would also be pertinent to the Scottish amendments that we discussed earlier on the Church and those which are to follow? Surely, the arguments are exactly the same.
Lord Williams of Mostyn: My Lords, the arguments are not remotely the same. Indeed, they are utterly distinct. One is to do with the 1922 settlement of the Church of Scotland which is an Act of Parliament. As my noble and learned friend the Lord Advocate said--and he is always right on these occasions--that remains wholly intact. The question of introducing convention rights into the Isle of Man, Guernsey, Sark, Brechou and Jersey has nothing at all to do with the position of the Church of Scotland. I venture to suggest that, were I to ask the wife of my noble and learned friend the Lord Advocate, who is an Elder of the Church of Scotland, whether she lays awake at night worrying about the position of the Channel Islands and whether to have any necessary or sensible connection with them, I think that the answer would be, no.
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