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Lord Jenkin of Roding moved Amendment No. 21:

Leave out Clause 14.

On Question, amendment agreed to.

Clause 16 [Recovery of business improvement district charges]:

Lord Jenkin of Roding moved Amendment No. 22:

Page 6, line 35, after ("recover") insert ("as a civil debt").

The noble Lord said: My Lords, this amendment provides that a BID charge may be recovered as a civil debt. There was some suggestion that a BID charge might be deemed to be a local non-domestic rate for the purposes of collection and recovery. I believe that the noble Baroness suggested that in Committee.

On reflection, that seems to be a rather heavy-handed way of dealing with the issue. As it is the company which would receive the money, it seems perfectly reasonable that it might look upon it as a civil debt.

However, the noble and learned Lord the Lord Chancellor has announced a review of civil debt procedure, of which I have taken careful note. No doubt if the procedure is reviewed and this provision is on the statute book at the time, it will be covered by the review. In the meantime, to provide that it should be recoverable as a civil debt seems to me to be a sensible way of dealing with the matter. I beg to move.

Baroness Farrington of Ribbleton: My Lords, this seems a sensible amendment to achieve the end proposed by the noble Lord, Lord Jenkin.

On Question, amendment agreed to.

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Clause 29 [Local authority discharge of functions]:

Lord Jenkin of Roding moved Amendment No. 23:

Page 9, line 6, at end insert--
("( ) In this Act, reference to the discharge of the functions of a local authority by another local authority includes reference to the discharge of those functions jointly.").

On Question, amendment agreed to.

Lord Jenkin of Roding moved Amendment No. 24:

After Clause 29, insert the following new clause--

Interpretation of "local authority"

(". In this Act, other than in section 11 so far as that section relates to Part V of the Local Government and Housing Act 1989 (companies in which local authorities have interests), "local authority" means a billing authority as defined in section 1(2) of the Local Government Finance Act 1992, responsible for the maintenance of a non-domestic rating list pursuant to section 41 of the 1988 Act.").

On Question, amendment agreed to.

Clause 30 [Interpretation]:

Lord Jenkin of Roding moved Amendment No. 25:

Page 9, leave out lines 23 to 26.

On Question, amendment agreed to.

Lord Jenkin of Roding moved Amendment No. 26:

Page 9, line 36, leave out ("subject to") and insert ("liable to pay").

On Question, amendment agreed to.

Lord Jenkin of Roding moved Amendment No. 27:

Page 9, line 36, at end insert--
(""relevant authority" means a local authority within the meaning of Part IV of the Local Government and Housing Act 1989 (revenue accounts and capital finance of local authorities);").

On Question, amendment agreed to.

Lord Chancellor (Tenure of Office) (Amendment) Bill [H.L.]

12.55 p.m.

Lord Alderdice: My Lords, I beg to move that the House do now resolve itself into Committee on this Bill.

Moved, That the House do now resolve itself into Committee.--(Lord Alderdice.)

On Question, Motion agreed to.

House in Committee accordingly.

[The DEPUTY CHAIRMAN OF COMMITTEES (Lord Murton of Lindisfarne)in the Chair.]

Clause 1 [Office of Lord Chancellor]:

Lord Alderdice moved the amendment:

Page 1, line 9, at end insert--
("(3) At the end of section 2 insert--
"Where the Lord Chancellor is not an adherent of the Roman Catholic faith the power to make provision under this section may only be exercised with the agreement of the Lord Chancellor."").

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The noble Lord said: The amendment which I put forward to the Bill is an attempt to address two concerns which were raised on Second Reading. The first was that the Lord Chancellor might be liable to have removed from him functions described in Section 2 of the 1974 Act, even though the Lord Chancellor might be quite content and legally without bar in exercising those various functions. The functions are not particularly large but they are not without significance. They are that the Lord Chancellor shall be a church commissioner and shall exercise certain patronage.

I make it clear that there was no purpose in bringing forward the Bill that there should be removed from the Lord Chancellor any of those rights or privileges which he might rightfully fulfil and might in all conscience fulfil. But as the noble Lord, Lord Burnham, pointed out on Second Reading, there was a previous Lord Chancellor, the noble and learned Lord, Lord Mackay of Clashfern, of whom it was public knowledge that because of his deep religious principles and the fact that he was not a member of the Church of England, he did struggle. There was some discussion whether he should properly, from the point of view of his own conscience, fulfil some of the requirements of the Lord Chancellor's office. In the event, he decided that it was perfectly proper for him to do so.

I suggest that there may be others not of a Christian faith, not of any faith at all, indeed perhaps someone who was not particularly warm towards faith, who might feel that it was not proper for him to be a church commissioner or to exercise ecclesiastical functions. As I understand it, as things stand, there is no provision in law for the functions to which I have referred to be exercised by anyone else.

In my own view, the original Bill as put forward was permissive in any case. It did not say that such functions would be removed or that they "shall be removed", but that, other arrangements "may be made". In that sense, it simply takes on from the language of the 1974 Act; namely, that Her Majesty in Council may provide for those visitational or ecclesiastical functions to be exercised by the Prime Minister or other Minister.

However, it appeared on Second Reading that there was a feeling among a number of noble Lords that the Lord Chancellor might be liable to have these functions removed. As part of the whole purpose of the Bill is to give clarification on the matter--and certainly not to give offence or difficulty--I have put forward the amendment now before the Committee to try to ensure, as can be seen in the terms of the amendment, that the matter will only be exercised,

    "with the agreement of the Lord Chancellor".

I trust that there will be an appreciation that this is to ensure that not only is there no legal bar by nature of religious profession, or the absence of religious profession, to anyone exercising the office of Lord Chancellor, but also that there is no reasonable bar of conscience to someone exercising the office of Lord Chancellor.

The question was raised on Second Reading whether the Bill was necessary. A number of noble Lords called in aid remarks made in Hansard by the noble and

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learned Lord, Lord Hailsham of St Marylebone, in the 1974 debate when he brought forward the original legislation. At that time, if we take simply the condition of Jewish people, the matter was not a problem. But, perhaps I may refer to the remarks that the noble and learned Lord made. He is the editor of Halsbury's Laws of England. I am referring to the 1996 edition of that work, which is a very up-to-date volume. The noble and learned Lord makes clear in that volume that subsequent to 1974--indeed, in the Statute Law (Repeals) Act 1989--the changes made in the Religious Disabilities Act 1846, by which Her Majesty's subjects professing the Jewish religion were subject to the same laws as Protestant subjects, were removed. The provision may have been removed inadvertently; I am sure that it was not removed on purpose in order to create a problem. But what does the noble and learned Lord Lord Hailsham say about it and about some other repeals which have taken place in previous years? He says:

    "In the light of these repeals, particularly the repeal of the Religious Disabilities Act 1846, it is unclear whether a person professing the Jewish religion would be appointed Lord Chancellor without clarifying legislation".

If the noble and learned Lord who brought legislation to this Chamber in 1974 to clarify the matter--a matter which was subsequently effected 15 years later by the Statute Law (Repeals) Act 1989--now says very clearly in Halsbury's Laws of England 1996 that there is a problem, surely it is clear that this piece of legislation is appropriate, is necessary, is permissive and, I submit, ought to be passed by this Chamber. I beg to move.

The Lord Bishop of Norwich: Perhaps I should be ashamed to say that I am not very knowledgeable about ecclesiastical law, but it is not one of my enthusiasms. However, I recognise its importance in the maintenance of good order in the Church. For that reason, I value very highly the expert advice of ecclesiastical lawyers; indeed, I depend upon it. One of the Church's senior lawyers, Miss Ingrid Slaughter, sent me a detailed briefing on the Bill explaining the issues, which are more complex than I realised. She did so in language that even the Bishop of Norwich can understand. She has helped me in the past and, knowing my frailties, stressed in her briefing that she thought there was no need for me to speak. She did not add, because she is gracious, that she feared that, if I did so, I might make a hash of it. Nevertheless, I want to make a few brief and non-technical remarks.

The Church of England sympathises--indeed, strongly supports--the motives which have led the noble Lord, Lord Alderdice, to introduce his amendment. I hardly need labour the point that we share wholeheartedly with him a commitment to the unity of all the Churches, and an abhorrence both of a sectarian spirit and discrimination on grounds of religion or lack of it. However, I have to communicate the fact that the Church's lawyers, whom I know to be personally in complete sympathy with the noble Lord's motives, believe that there are technical flaws which would make for complications in the operation of parts of the Bill.

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If it was thought right ultimately to redraft the Bill, I believe that the advice of the Church of England's legal experts would be invaluable, as well as that of the Church's main committee, through which the main Christian denominations work together on matters touching relations between Church and state. So it is with regret and great reluctance that I have to say that I am unable to support the noble Lord's amendment. I say, "regret", because I strongly support everything that he is trying to do.

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