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Lady Saltoun of Abernethy: I am absolutely amazed that the Government are anticipating that members of the Scottish parliament will be such a dishonest, sleazy lot that they will not themselves be able to regulate the registration of their interests and matters such as that, and that it will be necessary to introduce into the Bill criminal sanctions, quite apart from those available outside the Bill, to keep them under control.

Lord Monson: My noble friend might be unaware that a precedent was set recently in the Government of Wales Bill.

Viscount Thurso: Perhaps I may ask the Minister one question. It is sometimes possible for people, when registering their interests, to have a slip of memory or make a small mistake. In those circumstances, is it appropriate that the full weight of the law should used against them? If it is, when would the Government consider bringing such strictures to bear on another place?

Lord Hardie: To deal with the point raised by the noble Viscount, it is not unusual for people to have slips of memory and to make errors. Those are issues which are frequently addressed by the procurator fiscal when investigating other cases and they are taken into account. If the investigation by the fiscal indicated that it was a genuine error or slip of memory which was obviously not blatant, the likelihood is that the fiscal would not take any proceedings. That would be a matter for him or her to assess.

Perhaps I may deal with the point raised by the noble Lady, Lady Saltoun of Abernethy, and refer her to the answer given by the noble Lord, Lord Monson. The Government are not showing a lack of confidence in members of the Scottish parliament; they are recognising the importance that people place on the probity and integrity of Members of Parliament and people who stand for public office. It is right that in setting up such a body there should be no doubt that that is one of the fundamental principles which we believe should be enshrined in the legislation.

I turn to the point raised by the noble and learned Lord, Lord Clyde. The question of course is whether we are confident that the Scottish parliament will be able to frame standing orders with sufficient precision as one would expect of a provision in a criminal statute. I ask the noble and learned Lord: why not? The parliament will have power devolved to it to create criminal offences in the body of legislation. If the expertise is available to the parliament to frame such provisions, that expertise will be available to it in the formulation of the standing orders.

16 Jul 1998 : Column 484

As regards subsection (1) and a registrable interest, the noble and learned Lord will see that that is to be defined in the standing orders. One would expect it to be defined with the precision necessary for the creation of a criminal offence.

Lord Clyde: Perhaps I may intervene. That is my exact concern. We are creating a criminal offence without knowing what it is.

Lord Hardie: With respect, we are not. We are creating a criminal offence which is quite clear: the offence of contravening the subsection which refers to any member who takes part in proceedings without having complied with, or in contravention of, the provisions of subsections (1) to (3) or contravenes any provision made in pursuance of subsection (4). I do not understand the noble and learned Lord's difficulty in this regard, given that the parliamentary counsel involved in drafting legislation will also be available to the parliament to draft the necessary standing orders.

Lord Monson: Does the noble and learned Lord agree that while it is fairly easy to define financial interests, it is extremely difficulty to define non-financial interests?

Lord Hardie: I accept the point made by the noble and learned Lord, Lord Clyde. The definition of registrable interests will have to be particularly specific.

Lord Mackay of Drumadoon: I am grateful to the Lord Advocate for setting out the Government's position, which I fully understand. We are at one that it is essential that the highest standards of probity are established from day one of the new parliament. We differ on how that is best achieved.

Although it is entirely a matter for my noble friend Lord Balfour to decide what he does with his amendment, I should indicate to the Committee that when Amendment No. 133 is called I intend to seek the opinion of the Committee.

The Earl of Balfour: I am not quite certain where I stand now. Perhaps someone can help me.

Lord Mackay of Drumadoon: Perhaps I may give some free legal advice, which I have been endeavouring to give to the Government. The Committee is waiting for my noble friend to indicate whether he intends to press the amendment to a vote or to seek leave to withdraw it.

The Earl of Balfour: The answer has taken something like 25 minutes. I should have thought that it was a fairly straightforward question. I wish to read in Hansard what has been said. If I beg leave to withdraw the amendment at this stage, I can come back with further questions at the next stage of the Bill. With those few words, I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Lord Mackay of Drumadoon moved Amendment No. 133:

Page 11, line 12, leave out subsections (6) and (7).

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The noble and learned Lord said: I have already spoken to the amendment. I beg to move.

10.29 p.m.

On Question, Whether the said amendment (No. 133) shall be agreed to?

Their Lordships divided: Contents, 28; Not-Contents, 59.

Division No. 2


Astor, V.
Attlee, E.
Byford, B. [Teller.]
Carnegy of Lour, B.
Clyde, L.
Courtown, E. [Teller.]
Cranborne, V.
Denbigh, E.
Dundee, E.
Hope of Craighead, L.
Kintore, E.
Lucas of Chilworth, L.
Lyell, L.
Mackay of Ardbrecknish, L.
Mackay of Drumadoon, L.
Minto, E.
Monson, L.
Rawlings, B.
Renton, L.
Rowallan, L.
St. John of Bletso, L.
Saltoun of Abernethy, Ly.
Sanderson of Bowden, L.
Selkirk of Douglas, L.
Sempill, L.
Stodart of Leaston, L.
Wedgwood, L.
Wise, L.


Addington, L.
Alderdice, L.
Allenby of Megiddo, V.
Blackstone, B.
Borrie, L.
Carter, L. [Teller.]
Chandos, V.
Clinton-Davis, L.
Cocks of Hartcliffe, L.
Davies of Coity, L.
Davies of Oldham, L.
Desai, L.
Dixon, L.
Dormand of Easington, L.
Dubs, L.
Ewing of Kirkford, L.
Falconer of Thoroton, L.
Farrington of Ribbleton, B.
Gilbert, L.
Gordon of Strathblane, L.
Grenfell, L.
Hacking, L.
Hanworth, V.
Hardie, L.
Hardy of Wath, L.
Haskel, L.
Hoyle, L.
Hughes of Woodside, L.
Hunt of Kings Heath, L.
Islwyn, L.
Jay of Paddington, B.
Kennedy of The Shaws, B.
Lester of Herne Hill, L.
Linklater of Butterstone, B.
McIntosh of Haringey, L. [Teller.]
Mackie of Benshie, L.
McNair, L.
Maddock, B.
Mar and Kellie, E.
Molloy, L.
Monkswell, L.
Montague of Oxford, L.
Pitkeathley, B.
Ramsay of Cartvale, B.
Randall of St. Budeaux, L.
Razzall, L.
Redesdale, L.
Rendell of Babergh, B.
Richard, L. [Lord Privy Seal.]
Scotland of Asthal, B.
Sewel, L.
Simon, V.
Stair, E.
Symons of Vernham Dean, B.
Thurso, V.
Tope, L.
Watson of Invergowrie, L.
Whitty, L.
Young of Old Scone, B.

Resolved in the negative, and amendment disagreed to accordingly.

16 Jul 1998 : Column 485

10.37 p.m.

Clause 22 agreed to.

Clause 23 [Power to call for witnesses and documents]:

Baroness Linklater of Butterstone moved Amendment No. 134:

Page 11, line 28, at end insert--

16 Jul 1998 : Column 486

("( ) matters involving the British Broadcasting Corporation and the Independent Television Commission,").

The noble Baroness said: The purpose of this amendment is to give the Scottish parliament the power to call for witnesses and documents on matters involving the BBC and the ITC.

While broadcasting has clearly remained a reserved matter under Schedule 5, under the Charter of the BBC, responsibility for broadcasting in Scotland is in large measure devolved already to the Broadcasting Council for Scotland under the chairmanship of the national governor for Scotland. That body produces a rigorous annual performance review as well as the BBC Scotland annual review.

Broadcasting in all its forms has a profound and permeating influence on all our lives in Scotland, culturally, socially and economically. It affects and influences our perceptions and thinking in a multitude of ways, including how we see the new parliament and how we relate to it. It is an enormously important element in the fabric of our democratic society.

In that situation, it seems to me extraordinary that the Scottish parliament should have no say in that element of public life and it seems only logical and right that it should be able to scrutinise the activities of the BBC and ITC and that they in turn should be accountable to it. The parliament should be able to ask questions of the BBC and the ITC and in turn, they should be expected to justify their actions. That would be particularly important if they were thought to be failing in some way.

The role of the Scottish parliament would not be to instruct or control but it should be able to have its voice heard and its influence felt. This amendment would also build into the structure an element of dialogue as well as accountability from which everyone should benefit. I have spoken with several top executives in broadcasting in Scotland who say that they have no problem at all with this proposal and would not object to being called as a witness or to producing documents. The BBC already expects to lay its annual report before the parliament.

If those most intimately concerned with the implications of this amendment see no problem with it, I cannot see why the Government should. Without the benefit of this amendment, the Scottish parliament would have no right to have a say in broadcasting in Scotland, nor would the BBC or the ITC be accountable to it in respect of an activity which is absolutely central to Scottish life. This is a situation which is surely both completely illogical and highly undesirable. I beg to move.

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