Previous Section Back to Table of Contents Lords Hansard Home Page


The Earl of Balfour: I have one other question. I want the noble and learned Lord, Lord Hardie, to satisfy me that members of that parliament will be able to obtain all the documents that they really need to carry out their functions. That is one of the reasons that I tabled these amendments. Regardless of anything else, the parliament will have to produce many copies of everything, in much the same way as this House does.

Lord Hardie: I agree entirely with the noble Earl. I am sure the parliament would not operate otherwise. I should certainly expect it to make available copies of any relevant documents to members of the parliament to enable them to conduct their business.

Before leaving the points raised by the noble Earl, I should deal with the point made in relation to the Copyright Design and Patents Act. Schedule 7 amends that Act to provide that copyright is not infringed by anything done for the purpose of the proceedings of the Scottish parliament.

I turn now to Amendment No. 118 in the name of the noble Lord, Lord Selkirk of Douglas. It goes further and would insert in the Bill a statutory provision as to how, in certain circumstances, Acts in the Scottish parliament should be interpreted. The Government do not consider that it is necessary or right to make such a provision. Interpretation of statutes, which is also addressed by this amendment, is, as the noble and learned Lord, Lord Rodger of Earlsferry, pointed out, a matter for the courts.

14 Jul 1998 : Column 248

As regards Acts of the United Kingdom Parliament, the position is that in certain limited circumstances, courts are prepared to look at Hansard to assist them in interpreting a statutory provision. Again, I agree with the noble Lord, Lord Monkswell, that it is important that we should endeavour to make legislation sufficiently clear that it is unnecessary to do that. But unfortunately, on occasion, we fail to do that; there are ambiguities; and accordingly, it is necessary to use the doctrine in Pepper v. Hart. The courts also have the assistance of the Interpretation Act and various other canons of construction.

The question of interpretation of the Acts of the Scottish parliament will be a matter for the courts. The Scottish parliament itself may pass legislation similar to the Interpretation Act to assist in the interpretation of Acts of Parliament. But unless such provision is made by the Scottish parliament about construing a particular Act or Acts of Parliament, in my submission, the courts would apply the same canons of construction, including reference to the proceedings in parliament in cases of ambiguity. I see no reason for any difference between construing an Act of the Scottish parliament by the courts and an Act of the UK Parliament. In certain limited circumstances, it may well be appropriate to look at the proceedings in the Scottish parliament. Against that background and with that explanation, I would hope that noble Lords would feel able to withdraw their amendments.

Lord Monkswell: Perhaps I may respond from my perspective and thank my noble friend for explaining the import of Clause 115. I have to admit to the Committee that I had misconstrued it. I read "subordinate legislation" as being "legislation" rather than "making provision". I readily accept that the misconstruction is entirely my own fault. I accept that my noble friend has advised me.

Could I just confirm that, if the Scottish parliament, even if it started off with standing orders provided by the interim committee, was to vary those standing orders contrary to the provisions of this Bill, then subsequent proceedings of the Scottish parliament would be, effectively, ultra vires?

Lord Hardie: That would not be the case.

Lord Mackay of Drumadoon: Before my noble friend indicates to the Committee what he intends to do with respect to his amendment, perhaps the noble and learned Lord the Lord Advocate could address, first, the issues raised by the noble Lord, Lord Monkswell. If the standing orders do not conform with this Act of Parliament, who has the right to challenge that, and by what statutory procedure is that challenge to be mounted?

Secondly, can I just be quite clear on what the Government's position is if an Act of the Scottish parliament is passed by proceedings which fail to follow the letter of the standing orders? Is the Government's thinking that under no circumstances could that failure found a challenge to the vires of the legislation? If that is the position, may I respectfully suggest that that

14 Jul 1998 : Column 249

should be stated explicitly in this Act of this Parliament, otherwise there may be considerable confusion? I should be grateful if the noble and learned Lord the Lord Advocate, despite the lateness of the hour and the fact that this does not arise directly out of Amendment No. 117 or Amendment No. 118, could indicate quite clearly what is the Government's thinking on this very important issue.

Lord Hardie: The noble and learned Lord the Lord Mackay of Drumadoon has recognised that this is an important issue. I would not wish to give a view here and now in respect of that. I would prefer to give proper consideration to the matter and to respond in writing to the noble and learned Lord. Of course I will put in the Library of the House a copy of the response.

The Earl of Balfour: I looked at Schedule 7 to the Bill in respect of the Copyright, Design and Patents Act 1988, but perhaps I may once again draw the Committee's attention to Amendment No. 118 standing in the name of my noble friend, Lord Selkirk of Douglas. The last sentence reads:


    "The proceedings may be broadcast in any way which the Parliament may agree."

It was on that point that I quoted the Welsh provision, because I did not think that the Scottish legislation afforded the same copyright over broadcasting and recording as anything written. That was my reason for

14 Jul 1998 : Column 250

raising it. It is a technical point. I quite understand the position and I do not necessarily expect an answer tonight.

Lord Hardie: Again, I shall write to the noble Earl on the matter.

The Earl of Balfour: I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

[Amendment No. 118 not moved.]

Clause 21 agreed to.

Schedule 3 [Standing orders--further provision]:

[Amendments Nos. 119 to 121 not moved.]

Lord Carter: I beg to move that the House do now resume.

Moved accordingly, and, on Question, Motion agreed to.

House resumed.

Shrewsbury and Atcham Borough Council Bill [H.L.]

Returned from the Commons agreed to.

        House adjourned at fifteen minutes before one o'clock.

14 Jul 1998 : Column 249


Next Section Back to Table of Contents Lords Hansard Home Page